A Third “both/and” principle: evidence and faith


beatles_abbey_road

No evidence for factual things reaches 100%. For instance, when you want to cross the street you carefully look both ways to see what your chances are. And, assuming that a car driving at excessive speeds is not coming along, your chances of getting across the street are about 80% (give or take) of doing so with your arms and legs intact. But, it’s never 100%. What you really do is combine the evidence at the level that it exists with faith. Faith is jumping the gap from the evidence to certainty. And, most people when they cross the street take 100% of themselves along, not 80%. They do not leave an arm or a leg behind. Our decisions in life are a combination of evidence and faith. If you act on anything, you have faith. This is completely unlike the modern idea that faith is something in the absence of evidence, and that the two are opposite methods of knowing the world. But, as we have seen, both are necessary for purposely doing anything in the world.

This sort of faith is a trust in your own ability to properly know the world; a faith that you really do see the things that you see and really do experience the things that you experience. Your mind could be mistaken or corrupted in some way so that you can’t truthfully see and know what’s going on in the real world, but most of us don’t question the accuracy of our minds. We trust that what is going on in our heads matches what is going on around us.  But, we are irresistibly compelled to take the next step, to see what is going on, to know ourselves and the world more fully.

Another sort of faith is a trust in what another person tells you. You trust that when they say, I love you, it is true. It’s the same when you trust your father to tell you about the world. He tells you that seeds turn into trees and you believe him though you haven’t seen it yet. And others who become your teachers tell you a great many things that you could never have discovered on our own.

A religious faith goes beyond faith in parents and teachers. It is trust in God and what he says. We do not approach him with a worldly or self-trusting faith, but a faith as you would in your own father. Self and the world are inadequate of themselves to know the person of God, although necessary staring points for life. This sort faith, however, is born out of a response to him and what he has said to you, either through nature or through his word.

The quality, or type of faith one might have changes upon where you put it. Whether it’s in yourself, the world, a person, or a creator. Faith’s substances changes depending on where it’s placed.

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35 thoughts on “A Third “both/and” principle: evidence and faith

  1. Also take into account the amount of faith it takes to believe that the evidence still indicates the facts. Using your example, you believe that the fact that you don’t see any cars coming indicates the fact that there aren’t any cars coming because based on your previous experience, cars can be seen. It takes a certain amount of faith to assume that there isn’t an invisible car barreling down the street, or that you’re eyes or brain haven’t temporarily malfunctioned.

  2. What you really do is combine the evidence at the level that it exists with faith. Faith is jumping the gap from the evidence to certainty. And, most people when they cross the street take 100% of themselves along, not 80%. They do not leave an arm or a leg behind. Our decisions in life are a combination of evidence and faith. If you act on anything, you have faith.

    No. 237: ARGUMENT FROM LOGIC
    (1) There are some things in logic that you can’t logically demonstrate.
    (2) Therefore you have to take them on faith.
    (3) Your faith in logic is the same as my faith in God.
    (4) Therefore, God exists.

    The quality, or type of faith one might have changes upon where you put it. Whether it’s in yourself, the world, a person, or a creator. Faith’s substances changes depending on where it’s placed.

    No. 276: ARGUMENT FROM FAITH EQUIVALENCY
    (1) You have faith that the sun will rise tomorrow, don’t you?
    (2) See! Atheists have faith too!
    (3) Therefore, belief in science is just another faith.
    (4) Just like I have faith in God and Jesus.
    (5) Therefore, God exists.

    http://www.godlessgeeks.com/LINKS/GodProof.htm

  3. Hello again, DanOhBrian,

    Are you the same “DanOhBrian” who recently visited Debunking Christianity, challenging atheist to produce evidence that there’s no such thing as god?

    If so, what happened to you? You left a few drive-by comments that I addressed, but now you have seemingly fled, failing to interact with all the evidence presented. But maybe it’s just a case of other things taking priority. If so, that’s understandable.

    Lucky for you I was able to find your blog, huh?

    Anyway, if you decide you want to come back and interact with what I presented to you, here’s the link again:

    http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2013/04/some-general-observations-on.html#disqus_thread

    And here are a few other links that are on point with regard to the topic that was under discussion over on Debunking Christianity:

    How Theism Violates the Primacy of Existence
    http://bahnsenburner.blogspot.com/2010/02/how-theism-violates-primacy-of.html

    The Imaginative Nature of Christian Theism
    (13 points of evidence that the God of Christianity is merely imaginary)
    http://bahnsenburner.blogspot.com/2010/05/imaginative-nature-of-christian-theism.html

    A Proof that the Christian God Does Not Exist
    http://bahnsenburner.blogspot.com/2011/07/proof-that-christian-god-does-not-exist.html

    Prayson Daniel vs. the Imaginative Nature of Christian Theism
    http://bahnsenburner.blogspot.com/2013/01/prayson-daniel-vs-imaginative-nature-of.html

    Considering Mr. Smallwood’s Apologetic
    http://www.oocities.org/athens/sparta/1019/Morgue/Smallwood.htm

    Slick’s Sleight of Hand: A Review of Matt Slick’s Rebuttal to My Criticism
    http://katholon.com/CARM/Slicks_Sleight.htm

    Now, as far as your article above is concerned? Very interesting.

    Your very first sentence reads: “No evidence for factual things reaches 100%.”

    This is quite a claim. I’m curious: Does this assertion also apply to the claim that “[n]o evidence for factual things reaches 100%” ?

    Can you prove this with 100% certainty or is this claim of yours, that “[n]o evidence for factual things reaches 100%,” somehow exempt from the very claim you make?

    Or would you maintain that faith is required to even to accept *that* claim?

    I look forward to your response.

    (By the way, Abbey Road? Great album! And I know it was made by the Beatles — I know this with 100% certainty; no faith required.)

    Ydemoc

    1. …challenging atheist to produce evidence that there’s no such thing as god?

      challenging atheist to produce evidence that there’s no such thing as Bigfoot?
      challenging atheist to produce evidence that there’s no such thing as invisible dragons in Sagan’s garage?
      challenging atheist to produce evidence that there’s no such thing as Baal?
      challenging atheist to produce evidence that there’s no such thing as Santa?
      challenging atheist to produce evidence that there’s no such thing as Vishnu?

      The burden of proof

  4. Hi Cedric,

    Thanks for that. I’m a fan of QualiaSoup’s videos.

    As for who has the onus when it comes to the burden of proof, that was definitely one of the things that I highlighted in my exchange with “DanOhBrian” over on Debunking Christianity. I even suggested that to become better informed on the topic, that he take a look at Dawson Bethrick’s essay: Slick’s Sleight of Hand: A Review of Matt Slick’s Rebuttal to My Criticism, located here:

    http://katholon.com/CARM/Slicks_Sleight.htm

    Whether he has or not, I don’t know.

    But, notwithstanding that those who assert the existence of a god, devil, or any other imaginary thing do, in fact, bear the burden of proof, I don’t think you would disagree the mystic’s onus doesn’t preclude those of us who are rational from supplying evidence against such fanciful notions — if and when there is an appropriate context, and if and when we so choose. That’s exactly what I did in my exchange with “DanOhBrian” over on Debunking Christianity — produced items of evidence — per his request.

    Among the items of evidence I supplied were the following:

    ___________________________________________________________

    Proof that the Christian God Does Not Exist

    Premise 1: That which is imaginary is not real.

    Premise 2: If something is not real, it does not actually exist.

    Premise 3: If the god of Christianity is imaginary, then it is not real and therefore does not actually exist.

    Premise 4: The god of Christianity is imaginary.

    Conclusion: Therefore, the god of Christianity is not real and therefore does not actually exist.

    ( Dawson Bethrick – A Proof that the Christian God Does Not Exist –
    http://bahnsenburner.blogspot.com/2011/07/proof-that-christian-god-does-not-exist.html

    As a follow-up to this, please see:

    Prayson Daniel vs. the Imaginative Nature of Christian Theism –
    http://bahnsenburner.blogspot.com/2013/01/prayson-daniel-vs-imaginative-nature-of.html

    ___________________________________________________________

    The Argument from Objective Reality

    1) Existence exists. (We perceive existence directly, via our senses.)
    2) To exist is to be something specific. {from 1)}
    3) To be something specific is to have identity. {A is A; from 2)}

    4) The identity of an entity is not distinct from that entity; an entity and its identity are one and the same. {from 3)}
    5) Consciousness is consciousness of an object (i.e., of existence).
    5a) Therefore, consciousness presupposes existence. {from 5)}
    5b) Corollary: Existence does not depend on consciousness. {from 1)}
    6) The task of consciousness is not to create existence, but to identify it. {from 5)}

    7) Theism posits consciousness prior to and/or as causally responsible for the
    fact of existence (e.g., ‘God’). {theistic claims}
    8) Theism is in contradiction with fundamental facts of reality. {from 6)}

    C: Therefore, theism is invalid.

    Premises 1) though 3) are implicit in all perception, but made explicit in objective philosophy through axiomatic concepts. These truths are inescapable and presumed in all cognition.

    Premises 4) through 6) logically follow from the Objectivist axioms.

    Premises 7) and 8) are only necessary once the notion of a universe-creating, reality-ruling consciousness is posited by the mystic.

    One does not ‘presuppose’ anything about the ‘Christian triune God’ – either that God exists or that God does not exist – when he recognizes the fact that existence exists, even when that recognition is completely implicit. To argue otherwise is to commit the fallacy of the stolen concept (for such an assertion would fail to recognize objective conceptual priority and the hierarchical nature of knowledge).”

    From Anton Thorn’s: Considering Mr. Smallwood’s Apologetic
    http://www.oocities.org/athens/sparta/1019/Morgue/Smallwood.htm
    _________________________________________________________

    Ydemoc

  5. Thanks for that, Cedric! I’m a fan of QualiaSoup’s videos.

    (By the way, earlier I submitted a much longer comment, but for some reason, it didn’t post. Perhaps it will post later, as it might just be undergoing moderation or something.)

    Ydemoc

    1. 🙂
      His videos are required watching in in any of these ritual arguments that happen online with religious types. They never come up with anything new so videos like QualiaSoup can cover all the angles and save a lot of time.
      No point in re-inventing the wheel.
      Religious people can pretend that such videos don’t exist but the rest of us can go online and make good use of them. They are a very effective medium of communication.
      I don’t know if you keep up with any of the many others but there’s some very funny and informative material out there. Edward Current, cdk007, nonstampcollector,misterdeity, DonExodus2 etc.

      (By the way, earlier I submitted a much longer comment, but for some reason, it didn’t post. Perhaps it will post later, as it might just be undergoing moderation or something.)

      Yeah, that’s one of those mysterious things that happens from time to time. Happens here and it happens on certain other blogs too.
      It’s mysterious. Sometimes they just…vanish.
      (Tildeb at “Questionanable Motives” has a post on it I believe.)

      1. Thanks for the sites, Cedric!

        I’ve seen a little of Current, nonstampcollector, and mister deity, and I enjoy all of them.

        Other video sites I’ve visited on occasion are: Scott Clifton,(aka Theoretical Bullshit)… http://www.youtube.com/user/TheoreticalBullshit — and Brett Palmer’s “The Bible Skeptic”… http://www.youtube.com/user/brettppalmer

        However, I mostly consume such reason-based work in written form, e.g., Incinerating Presuppositionalism…
        http://bahnsenburner.blogspot.com/ — and Debunking Christianity…http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/

        As far as my comment disappearing, thanks for informing me about Tileb’s post on the topic at “Questionable Motives.” I’ll check it out.

        Ydemoc

  6. Cedric,

    I just read that post on vanishing comments. Tildeb (?) writes that similar vanishing comments over on “Questionable Motives” were located in the “bowels of the administration tools.”

    I don’t really know what that is, but if that’s where mine went, perhaps “DanOhBrian” could be so kind as to fish it out for me?

    Ydemoc

  7. Ydemoc,

    Sorry I haven’t replied back to you in a prompt manner. Life has been a bit busy lately. I am the same “DanOhBrian” you are referring to. I didn’t see your replies right away, but I eventually got a chance to look at them. Upon visiting your site, I was immediately struck with the academically rigorous fashion with which you constructed your arguments. I thoroughly enjoyed reading them and recommended them to my friends. Now, the reason I did not reply back is that to adequately reply to such arguments would take more than a meaningful comment on the matter. I want to respond to your arguments, but finding the time lately even to make this reply has been harder than usual. Life tosses you back and forth sometimes. That’s not to say that I won’t reply. It just might take a while to respond in a fitting manner.

    Concerning your question about this post, initially I would say that my statement does apply to itself. If, in the world, one observes that things don’t reach 100% certainty, that everything is vulnerable to doubt in some way, and the most obvious truths can be called into question; then in order to believe with certainty this observed condition of reality, one must reach that certainty by faith. Thus, it takes faith to believe my statement. No one is required to believe it, or anything really. And as long as one believes, for instance, that he or she exists, that belief was reached by faith, since even that can be cast upon with doubt.

    As for the vanishing comment, I didn’t realize there was something in my spam folder. But, apparently that’s where your comment went. I hope I got everything.

    Now, here’s an informal comment concerning the primacy of existence vs the primacy of consciousness. It seems to me that Objectivism thrives on the separation of the subject and the object. But, discerning a distinction doesn’t necessitate a separation. For, we know that, as human beings, we are subjects and objects. These two things are, in us, one and the same thing. We exist and we are conscious. Our consciousness exists and our consciousness is conscious. It is subject and object. To say I exist and I am conscious is to look at one and the same thing, namely myself, from different aspects. My existence just is my consciousness; and these two do not exist independent from one another. Thus, for my consciousness to conform to the fact of my own existence, I would have to first presuppose my own existence in order for my consciousness to conform itself to my own existence. The elephant stands on the turtle which stands on the elephant… you get the picture.

    I have more to say, but I’ve already run out of time. I look forward to interacting with your ideas a little more.

    1. Hi Dan,

      Here is my interaction with the response you left for me on your blog, back on April 25, 2013. It is quite long — and this is only Part I!

      I hope all of it posts. If for some reason it doesn’t (for instance, if there’s a word limit per post), I can always divide it up and post it in smaller segments.

      Also, as I’m sure you would have figured out, the numbers you come across while reading are endnotes. Sorry, I didn’t bother finding a way to make them less obtrusive.

      Anyway…

      You wrote: “Sorry I haven’t replied back to you in a prompt manner. Life has been a bit busy lately.”

      No problem, Dan. I, too, have obligations that often prevent me from responding as speedily as I would like. So I appreciate that you responded — at all, really.

      You wrote: “Upon visiting your site, I was immediately struck with the academically rigorous fashion with which you constructed your arguments.”

      As I mentioned before, (and I’m only repeating this here for the benefit of anyone who may not have seen the previous clarification), that material and those blogs are not mine, but Dawson Bethrick’s and Anton Thorn’s, respectively. Here again are the links to each of their sites:

      Dawson Bethrick – Incinerating Presuppositionalism

      Home Page: http://bahnsenburner.blogspot.com/

      Anton Thorn – Objectivist Atheology

      http://www.reocities.com/Athens/Sparta/1019/Thorn2.html

      or

      http://www.oocities.org/athens/sparta/1019/Thorn2.html

      Dawson’s blog entries are also archived at:

      http://katholon.com/writings.htm

      http://katholon.com/CARM.htm

      http://katholon.com/dialogos/archive.htm

      (The last I checked, Dawson’s archived material — through at least September 15, 2012 — can also be accessed in PDF format at: http://www.katholon.com/ip.htm )

      You wrote: “I thoroughly enjoyed reading them and recommended them to my friends.”

      That’s great to hear! Dawson is a tremendous writer and thinker who — going on nine years now — has not only presented carefully crafted critiques against presuppositionalism and Christian apologetics (as well as against mysticism and irrationality in general), but has also championed, in clear terms, a rational alternative, i.e., a worldview which “affirms objective reality, reason, the objective theory of concepts, the objective theory of values, rational self-interest, individual rights, rationality, independence, productivity, etc.” 1

      He has great enthusiasm for discussing philosophical matters, and is quite willing to engage anyone who visits his site, apologist and non-apologist alike. Should any of your friends choose to drop on by, I’m sure they will find themselves to be no exception to this.

      You wrote: “Now, the reason I did not reply back is that to adequately reply to such arguments would take more than a meaningful comment on the matter.”

Tell me about it! In exchanges I’ve had in the comments section over on Dawson’s blog, I’ve often found it necessary to produce several paragraphs of material — just to counter one single notion from some apologist or another. Heck, just look a the length of my current reply! So, hey, knock yourself out.

      You wrote: “I want to respond to your arguments, but finding the time lately even to make this reply has been harder than usual. Life tosses you back and forth sometimes. That’s not to say that I won’t reply. It just might take a while to respond in a fitting manner.”

      Again, not my arguments — although, arguments I certainly affirm. But I get your point. No rush. After all, look how long it’s taken me!

      Anyway, just to review:

      Back in April, you chimed in on over on Debunking Christianity, challenging people to provide you with evidence for the non-existence of god. (http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2013/04/some-general-observations-on.html#disqus_thread)

      I, along with several other posters, replied, pointing out that there is no burden to provide evidence for the non-existence of something. In fact, that which doesn’t exist would leave no trace of itself in the first place.

      For example, no one need prove that a Tiger Woods doppelganger **is not** currently playing a par 4 on Pluto. The failure or refusal to produce evidence that Tiger’s twin *is not* playing golf on Pluto, does not and cannot constitute an affirmation that such a thing is actually taking place, or for that matter, that it is even in the realm of possibility of taking place. Moreover, *not* supplying evidence for such a scenario does not qualify as any sort of epistemological default on the part of those who refuse or fail to provide such evidence — as if *not* providing evidence for that which *doesn’t* exist is in the same “epistemological league,” if you will, as providing evidence for that which does exist or for that which is within the realm of possibility of existing. It’s not at all in the same league.

      Using an example given by Leonard Peikoff in Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, and replacing “gremlins” with my Tiger Woods scenario, “to say: ‘Prove that a Tiger Woods doppelganger is not playing a par 4 on Pluto,’ is to say: ‘Point out the facts of reality that follow from the non-existence of Tiger Woods playing a par 4 on Pluto.’ But there are no such facts. Nothing follows from nothing.” 2

      To put more of a point on it, this from Dawson Bethrick: “Since the concept ‘proof’ presupposes the concept ‘evidence’ (which may be either perceptual or conceptual in nature), and since the concept ‘evidence’ applies only to that which exists (we do not look for evidence for that which does not exist, for that would be a stolen concept [explained later]), it is proper to call for proof only in regard to positive claims with respect to existential claims. In other words, if someone says that X exists, then he is rightly called to prove this claim by means of either perceptual or conceptual evidence which ultimately reduces to perceptual evidence. But if someone says, ‘You haven’t proven that X exists, and I have no knowledge of any evidence, perceptual or conceptual, which could possibly serve to validate the claim that X exists, I cannot accept it as legitimately validated knowledge,’ he does not bear any onus to prove that X does not exist, for he was not the initiator of the existential claim in the first place. He is in full epistemological rights to say to those who claim that X exists, but fail to validate it, ‘Whatever!’ and leave it at that; he is also right to point out why he does not accept the claim that X exists in the case of existential claims of an extraordinary or controversial nature, and one of those reasons would be to emphasize that he is under no obligation to present a proof that X does not exist. Again, these are epistemological principles which find their source in Rational philosophy, not in mysticism, where claims are taken on faith, not on reason.” 3

      So, with this epistemological onus solely upon *you* to provide evidence *for* your god-claim and not on any of us, and rather than settling for a mere tit-for-tat by asking *you* to provide *me* with evidence that there is, say, “no such thing as a proof for the non-existence of god anywhere in the whole universe,” and then declaring victory when you failed to do so, I went ahead and presented you with evidence anyway, (an option available to me and made possible, in some cases, thanks to being able to relate such claims to an established context and then producing evidence countering such a claim.) 4

      The evidence which I presented to you included: An explanation of why any claim that “God exists” is a performative contradiction; Dawson Bethrick’s, “Proof that the Christian God Does Not Exist”; and Anton Thorn’s, “The Argument from Objective Reality,” 5 (both located here: https://irrelevantaxiom.wordpress.com/2013/04/10/a-third-bothand-principle-evidence-and-faith/#comment-2207)

      Despite the evidence presented to you, you stated in a follow-up comment that you were “dealing with fools who can’t answer questions” You also challenged us to “[p]rove false any god, any god that anyone has ever believed throughout history.”

      In my follow-up, I made it clear why it is that the cognitive status of such deity-claims do not even rise to a level worthy of being considered as true or false (like Tiger Woods on Pluto, or arguably worse). Essentially, I explained why such claims are arbitrary — fundamentally, no better than gibberish. 6 (Oh, and I also returned the rhetorical favor of you calling us “fools”, when I referred to *you* as one also. So there!)

      A few days went by. I still hadn’t received a response from you. So I decided to see if you were active on any other blogs.

      That’s when I found you over here and reminded you of my comments that were awaiting your reply. This was also when I happened to read your claim in the blog entry above: “No evidence for factual things reaches 100%.”

      Having seen countless mystics in apologetic circles touting “faith” (or God-belief) as the only viable alternative to such skepticism, I thought it worthwhile to pursue such matters with you, to find out if your offerings would fare any better under scrutiny than others I’ve dealt with.

      Will we discover that “faith” really can lead “to certainty” by, as you put it, “jumping the gap from evidence”? Or will we instead find that such statements as, “Faith is jumping the gap from the evidence to certainty” and “No evidence for factual things reaches 100%,” (aside from the fact that they arguably cancel each other out), align themselves with whim, hope, feelings and imagination rather than with reason, rationality, objectivity and reality? — and that mysticism and skepticism are really flip-sides of the same subjectivist coin? — and that the only truly, viable alternative to both is a “philosophy which teaches that reality is absolute, that there is a fundamental distinction between what is real and what is imaginary, that knowledge is conceptual in nature, that man’s means of acquiring and validating knowledge is something called reason”? 7

      Okay, so maybe I’m stacking the deck a little. In any event…

      I asked: “Does this assertion also apply to the claim that ‘[n]o evidence for factual things reaches 100%’? Can you prove this with 100% certainty or is this claim of yours, that ‘[n]o evidence for factual things reaches 100%,’ somehow exempt from the very claim you make? Or would you maintain that faith is required to even to accept *that* claim?”

      In response, you wrote: “Concerning your question about this post, initially I would say that my statement does apply to itself…”

      This certainly seems to be the concession that one would have to make — at least in the interest of remaining consistent. But your concession merely scratches the surface in highlighting but *one* problem with your statement. Upon closer inspection, the problems are manifold and run much deeper.

      Consider: If propositions are preconditions for the formation of any beliefs, and concepts are preconditions for the formation of any propositions, then this means that concepts are more fundamental than “beliefs,” more fundamental than propositions, and need to be accounted for. 8

      In other words, your propositional statement above is an integration composed of concepts, and it can only have truth-value by virtue of the truth-value of the concepts which happen to inform it. 9 So where would you say the concepts which you’ve strung together, come from? By what cognitive process did you form or acquire them? 10 How would you validate them? Define them? What, if anything, would you say concepts such as “evidence,” “factual,” “things” and “percent,” refer to in reality?

      You certainly seem to be relying on the validity of each concept you’re using, i.e., counting on the fact that the concepts you’re using to inform your statement have a basis in reality (i.e., that they have immediate referents or are hierarchically based upon concepts that can ultimately be reduced to referents in reality). Yet at the same time, the content of your claim attempts to undercut all this.

      But if we were to accept the basic premise of your statement, it could be rephrased as follows: “No evidence for factual things reaches 100%, including for the very concepts I, Dan O’Brian, am using in my statement, such as: ‘evidence’ ‘factual,‘ ‘things,’ and ‘percent,’ as well for as any and all referents subsumed by them.” This would leave the truth-value of your proposition completely untenable at the most fundamental level.

      If we are able to form concepts based upon the perceptual input of objects, and these very objects serve as the basis for a concept (for instance, the objects that would serve as the basis for the formation of the concept “chair”), then why would anyone claim that “no evidence for ‘chairs,’ (i.e., “factual things”) reaches 100%”!? What rational basis would there be for such a claim? And on what grounds should anyone take such a statement seriously? Blank out.

      If this is the sort of thing you’re asserting with your statement (and I don’t see any way around it), then what you are doing is engaging in what Ayn Rand identified as the Stolen Concept Fallacy, which is: Ignoring the genetic roots upon which a concept depends, 11 (in this case, denying the basis for the concept “evidence”). “Factual things” **are** “evidence.” They are the very basis upon which we form the concept “evidence.” “Evidence” is defined as “facts tending to (or that) prove or disprove a conclusion.” And evidence begins with the realm of facts, i.e., the realm of existence. 12

      Later in your response to me, you make an appeal to “faith,” writing that: “everything is vulnerable to doubt in some way…” and that “one must reach… certainty by faith.”

      Where did you get the concept “faith”? Please explain, in detail, what purpose “faith” serves, as you understand it, in mitigating the problems that I’ve raised about your statement above? What role does “faith” play in the formation of concepts? How, precisely, does it curb the “doubt” which you — without any rational basis whatsoever — claim “everything is vulnerable to in some way”? Could you connect these dots for me?

      Also implicit in your statement — something that I would find particularly troubling if I were a Christian — is the following: If, as you say, “no evidence for factual things reaches 100%” and if “faith” is considered to be one of those “factual things,” then wouldn’t this mean you’re essentially saying, “No evidence for ‘faith’ reaches 100%”?! (To have some real fun, try adding “God” in there as a “fact,” along with “faith”!)

      Incidentally, where does the Christian bible address any of this? Where does it lay out a theory of concepts? On what page does it explain their nature, how they are formed, how they relate to the objects they subsume, how a concept is distinguished from other concepts, how concepts are integrated with other concepts, how they are defined, etc? 13

      Ayn Rand addresses this, in detail, in her book Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. You might find it (and her other works) helpful when considering my inquiries. In the meantime, here’s a brief quote: “When in doubt about the meaning or the definition of a concept, the best method of clarification is to look for its referents — i.e., to ask oneself: What fact or facts of reality gave rise to this concept? What distinguishes it from all other concepts?” 14

      You continue: “If, in the world, one observes that things don’t reach 100% certainty…”

      Given my presentation thus far, I’m sure the numerous questions that follow won’t come as any shock to you. However, your answers to them will undoubtedly help to clarify your position for me.

      Where “in the world” would I “observe that things don’t reach 100% certainty?” What kind of “things” do you have in mind that wouldn’t “reach 100% certainty” when one “observes” them? How do you go about determining that “what one observes” *doesn’t* “reach 100% certainty,” and what standard are you using? You’re statement is a little unclear to me, so can you please explain it and maybe give some examples?

      (If you have in mind examples like: “a desert mirage,” “a stick in water appearing bent,” or any other so-called optical illusions, these are thoroughly dealt with throughout Objectivist literature. Please see endnote (15) for sources.)

      Also, can you tell me what you mean by “observe”? What facts of reality (if any) would you say give rise to this concept? How would you validate it? How would you form it? What are you relying on (if anything) in your use of it? How would “faith,” as you define it, be helpful at all in forming or validating the concept “observe”? How is the role that “faith” plays any different than how the imagination works? Any different than wishing? 16

      Perception (or observation) is the direct and automatic awareness of objects present to the senses. 17 At this stage, we do not become aware of *what* objects are, but merely *that* they are. I emphasize: perception is an *automatic process*, like breathing and digestion. Any “error” or “uncertainty” at the perceptual stage would be an impossibility — and as absurd to speak of as it would be to speak of “error” or “uncertainty” with regard to automatic functions, like breathing, digestion, etc.

      It is only when we reach the conceptual level of cognition (a volitional process) that errors and doubt can creep in, particularly if one isn’t careful identifying and integrating the material provided by the senses. As David Kelley notes: “It is only as knowledge expands beyond this level [the perceptual stage] that we need to become epistemologically self-conscious. As we begin to integrate evidence on a wider scale, building conclusion on conclusion, the possibilities for error multiply, and we need to ask ourselves: Do I really know that what I am taking to be evidence is true? Is there anything else I know that bears on this issue? Do I have evidence that further evidence is available? Am I biased toward this conclusion? Etc.” 18

      Epistemologically, the base of all of man’s knowledge is the perceptual stage. 19 At this level, if anyone perceives or observes any “thing,” then, in fact, they have perceived **some** “thing” — and have done so — *without a doubt*!

      By perceiving any “thing,” that “thing” is perceptually self-evident by virtue of it having been perceived. Indeed, I would maintain that if this were not the case, then there would be no basis upon which to form (let alone, be capable of using) such concepts as “perceive,” “certainty,” or “doubt” in the first place!

      As Leonard Peikoff notes in Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand: “When one perceives a tomato, for example, there is no evidence that it exists, beyond the fact that one perceives it; there is no evidence that it is something, beyond the fact that one perceives **it**; and there is no evidence that one is aware, beyond the fact that one **is** perceiving it… 20

      If a ‘valid‘ sense perception means a perception the object of which is an existent, then not merely man’s senses are valid. *All* sense perceptions are necessarily valid. If an individual of any species perceives at all, then, no matter what its organs or forms of perception, it perceives something that is.” 21

      Applying all of this to the “street” example in your main blog entry: If our senses were invalid, not only would we have no means to determine whether it would be safe to cross a street, but we would also have no way of identifying it as a “street” at all — or what “identifying it” or “crossing it” would even mean! In fact, I wouldn’t even be able sit here, typing what I’m typing, questioning you on this matter if the senses were invalid! (cf. The case of Helen Keller, and the difficulties she had conceptualizing/acquiring knowledge without the benefit of sight or hearing.)

      As Rand notes: “Man’s senses are his only direct cognitive contact with reality and, therefore, his only source of information. Without sensory evidence, there can be no concepts; without concepts, there can be no language; without language, there can be no knowledge and no science.” 22

      Of course, you can challenge this and try to prove otherwise. But good luck, sans data obtained by sensory perception. 23

      You continue: “…that everything is vulnerable to doubt in some way…”

      “Everything” is vulnerable to doubt? Well, then wouldn’t your very claim have to include the very concept “everything,” and thereby casting doubt on all that it subsumes, which would necessarily have to include “vulnerability” and “doubt” and all in reality which gives rise to these concepts also?

      If so — and, again, given your claim, it really wouldn’t make any sense to deny it — then you’re essentially positing the following: “Everything is vulnerable to doubt in some way, which means ‘vulnerability’ and ‘doubt’ are vulnerable to doubt in some way.”

      Is this what you had in mind? If so, then your statement essentially negates itself — unless you want to take the “turtles all the way down” approach, i.e., doubt, no doubt, doubt, no doubt, etc.

      Or, you could just simply recognize what I spoke to earlier: the fact that man’s knowledge begins with perceptual awareness of objects, and does so at that stage *without a doubt*.

      (By the way — and I realize the following questions are somewhat tangential to the matter at hand — but they are inquiries I’ve never received a coherent answer to from other apologists: Would you say that “doubt” is a reflection of your god’s character and actions? Also, since “everything” in your “vulnerable to doubt” claim would necessarily have to include “everyone” and “every thing” (including you and me), would you say that I would be justified in “doubting” that you’re a Christian? Warranted in doubting any claim of salvation made by you? If faith is susceptible to doubt, then what would you resort to for “jumping the gap… to certainty” about such faith if it itself is in doubt? And if you pronounce your faith in doubt, would you be certain that it is? How so, without faith to secure that certainty?)

      You continued: “…and the most obvious truths can be called into question;

      Before I address this claim, I think it might be helpful to review a few key terms.

      “Knowledge,” according to Objectivism, is “a mental grasp of the fact(s) of reality, reached either by perceptual observation or by a process of reason based on perceptual observation.” 24 What’s important to note here, is that this definition itself qualifies as knowledge. Why is that so important? Because, as Peikoff points out: “Contrary to skepticism, the definition affirms that man *can* ‘grasp reality.’ Contrary to mysticism, it affirms that such grasp is achieved only by observation and/or reason.” 25

      “Truth,” as Dawson Bethrick explains, is “the non-contradictory, objective identification of fact. Truth obtains when an objectively formed, logically assembled conceptual structure (e.g., a proposition) conforms to the facts which it is intended to denote in accordance with the relevant content of those facts.“ 26

      Or, as Rand writes: “Truth is the product of the recognition (i.e., identification) of the facts of reality. Man identifies and integrates the facts of reality by means of concepts. He retains concepts in his mind by means of definitions. He organizes these concepts into propositions – and the truth or falsehood of his propositions rests, not only on their relation to the facts he asserts, but also on the truth or falsehood of the definitions of the concepts he uses to assert them, which rests on the truth or falsehood of his designations of essential characteristics.” 27

      What, then, is man’s standard of truth? That standard is **reason,** which is: “the faculty that identifies and integrates the material provided by man’s senses.” 28

      So, back to your claim that “the most obvious truths can be called into question.” What “obvious truths” were you thinking of that can be “called into question”? Perhaps the “obvious truth,” that the concept “obvious” exists? That it’s been formed? Defined? That it’s grounded in reality? And that you employed it in the above sentence on your blog? Is that the type of “obvious truth” you had in mind which might be “called into question”?

      Or perhaps you had in mind something more wide-ranging — for instance, *all* concepts? If so, can you demonstrate how you might “call into question” the fact that concepts exist, without using concepts and, as a result, performatively contradicting yourself in the process? Can you demonstrate how you might “call into question” the fact that knowledge exists, without performatively contradicting yourself?

      How about the fact that there is no such thing as a square circle? Can you demonstrate how this might be “called into question”? (I’m assuming, of course, that by “calling into question” you mean: **succeeding** in challenging the accuracy, probity, or propriety of 29 the “obvious truths” I’ve mentioned, and not merely the simple act of **issuing** a challenge to such truths. I grant the latter is well within the realm of possibility, but not the former.)

      Also, would you say your claim that “the most obvious truths can be called into question,” is an inductive generalization? If it is, would you say that induction ever leads to certainty?

      Stay tuned for Part II. It will be arriving shortly.
      ______________________________

      1 Dawson Bethrick. http://debunkingatheists.blogspot.com/2010/09/arrogance-of-atheism.html?showComment=1286141557384#c7775263602625811828 ; also see Tara Smith’s, Ayn Rand’s Normative Ethics: The Virtuous Egoist; ISBN 978-0-521-70546-2

      2 Leonard Peikoff. Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand. p. 168

      3 Dawson Bethrick. Slick’s Sleight of Hand: A Review of Matt Slick’s Rebuttal to My Criticism
      http://katholon.com/CARM/Slicks_Sleight.htm

      4 Leonard Peikoff. Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand. p. 166 (also see note 6)

      5 For even more evidence, also see CJ Holmes’ essay: Why God-Belief is Irrational.
      http://www.geocities.ws/intellectoasis/irrational.htm

      6 For more on this, see the entry for “Arbitrary” in Anton Thorn’s: Important Terms – Relevant to the Development of an Objective Atheology. http://www.oocities.org/athens/sparta/1019/AFE/Definitions.htm

      7 Dawson Bethrick, Reaction to My Critique of Anderson and Welty’s “The Lord of Non-Contradiction”
      http://bahnsenburner.blogspot.com/2012/02/reaction-to-my-critique-of-anderson-and.html

      8 Dawson Bethrick. Incinerating Presuppositionalism. http://bahnsenburner.blogspot.com/

      9 Dawson Bethrick. Answering Dustin Segers’ Presuppositionalism, Part II: The Nature of Logic.
      http://bahnsenburner.blogspot.com/2012/04/answering-dustin-segers_08.html

      10 Dawson Bethrick. Chris Bolt on the Conditions of Knowledge. http://bahnsenburner.blogspot.com/2009/07/chris-bolt-on-conditions-of-knowledge.html

      11 For an explanation of the Stolen Concept Fallacy, please see: The Ayn Rand Lexicon. http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/stolen_concept,_fallacy_of.html ; also see Dawson Bethrick’s: Stolen Concepts and Intellectual Parasitism. http://bahnsenburner.blogspot.com/2008/06/stolen-concepts-and-intellectual.html

      12 Anton Thorn. Dear Apologist: An Exploration of the Goal of the Apologist’s Effort
      http://www.oocities.org/athens/sparta/1019/WhyObjAth/Dear_Apologist.htm

      13 Dawson Bethrick. Can a Worldview “Provide” the “Preconditions of Intelligibility”? http://bahnsenburner.blogspot.com/2012/03/can-worldview-provide-preconditions-of_20.html

      14 Ayn Rand. Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. p. 51

      15 For “stick in water appearing bent,” see: Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, p. 40; For “desert mirage,” see: George H. Smith’s book: Atheism: The Case Against God, p. 155 For “the argument from hallucination,” see: The Logical Structure of Objectivism. p. 29 – pdf. available here: http://www.atlassociety.org/logical-structure-objectivism Also see: On the Validity of the Senses by Dawson Bethrick. http://bahnsenburner.blogspot.com/2013/04/on-validity-of-senses.html

      16 Dawson Bethrick. Reaction to My Critique of Anderson and Welty’s “The Lord of Non-Contradiction”. (Comment Thread)
      http://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=11714522&postID=4241056844531774839&isPopup=true

      17 William Thomas and David Kelley. The Logical Structure of Objectivism. p. 29

      18 David Kelly. Evidence and Justification. p. 16 – 17. PDF available here: http://www.atlassociety.org/sites/default/files/Evidence_and_Justification_0.pdf

      19 Ayn Rand. Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. p. 5

      20 Leaonard Peikoff. Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand. p. 8

      21 Ibid. p. 41

      22 Ayn Rand. Philosophy: Who Needs It. p. 90

      23 Ayn Rand. For the New Intellectual. p. 155

      24 Leonard Peikoff. Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand. p. 182

      25 Ibid. p. 182

      26 Dawson Bethrick. Answering Dustin Segers’ Presuppositionalism, Part I: Intro and the Nature of Truth
      http://bahnsenburner.blogspot.com/2012/04/answering-dustin-segers.html

      27 Ayn Rand. Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, Second Expanded Edition. p. 48.

      28 Ayn Rand. The Virtue of Selfishness. p. 20. http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/reason.html

      29 http://www.thefreedictionary.com/call+into+question

      1. Hi Dan,

        I’m happy to see that “Part I” went through without a hitch. Thanks for publishing it! Now, on to…

        Part II

        You go on: “…then in order to believe with certainty this observed condition of reality, one must reach that certainty by faith.”

        As was pointed out, propositions are the precondition for any “beliefs,” and concepts the precondition for the formation of any propositions. So what then would be the precondition for the formation of any concepts? What would have to obtain before one could “believe,” “doubt,” “trust,” “have faith in” or “have knowledge of” — anything?

        Objectivism affirms that sense perception is the epistemological basis for concepts (or knowledge). *All* knowledge is knowledge of reality, and is acquired on the basis of perceptual input, with reason being the faculty that identifies and integrates this material.

        Rand notes that: “Reason integrates man’s perceptions by means of forming abstractions or conceptions, thus raising man’s knowledge from the perceptual level, which he shares with animals, to the conceptual level, which he alone can reach. The method which reason employs in this process is logic — and logic is the art of non-contradictory identification.” 30 Reason is the faculty. Logic is the method. Truth is the product.

        Peikoff adds: “The senses, concepts, logic: these are the elements of man’s rational faculty — its start, its form, its method. In essence, ‘follow reason’ means: base knowledge on observation; form concepts according to the actual (measurable) relationships among concretes; use concepts according to the rules of logic (ultimately, the Law of Identity). Since each of these elements is based on the facts of reality, the conclusions reached by a process of reason are objective. The alternative to reason is some form of mysticism or skepticism.” 31

        *Metaphysically* speaking, the basis of all knowledge is existence (or reality). As Peikoff explains: “Before one can consider any other issue [including any so-called “condition” of reality], before one can ask what things there are or what problems men face in learning about them, before one can discuss what one knows or how one knows it — first, there must *be* something, [existence]. And one must grasp [consciousness] that there is. If not, there is nothing to consider or to know. 32 Before one can ask *what* any existent is, it must be something [identity], and one must know this. If not there is nothing to investigate — or to exist.” 33

        Peikoff has just described the preconditions of intelligibility, the starting points of knowledge: “existence,” “consciousness,” and “identity.” These axiomatic concepts, which are implicit in any act of awareness, are the fundamental recognitions which Objectivism makes explicit. They are perceived or experienced directly, but grasped conceptually. And, as Rand makes clear: “They sum up the essence of all human cognition: something *exists* of which I am *conscious*; I must discover its *identity*.

        [The] underscoring of primary facts is one of the crucial epistemological functions of axiomatic concepts. It is also the reason why they can be translated into a statement in the form of a repetition (as a base and a reminder): Existence exists — Consciousness is conscious — A is A. (This converts axiomatic concepts into formal axioms.)” 34

        Dawson Bethrick points out, these axioms are fundamental in the following ways:

        “- they identify perceptually self-evident facts;
        – these facts are the broadest generalities possible, especially in the case of the axiom of existence – the concept ‘existence’ is the widest of all concepts, including everything that exits [subsuming everything — every entity, action, attribute, relationship (including every state of consciousness) — everything which is, was, or will be]*
        – the concepts informing the axioms (‘existence’, ‘identity’ and ‘consciousness’) are conceptually irreducible – i.e., they are not inferred from other facts or from prior knowledge; they do not assume the truth of prior or more fundamental concepts – there are none!
        – they denote facts which are ever-present throughout all knowledge;
        – to deny them, one must assume their truth in that they would have to be true in order to deny them. 35



        The axioms provide higher knowledge with the solid conceptual basis needed for building the entire sum of one’s knowledge in hierarchical structure. The axioms identify in the broadest possible terms the context which makes knowledge possible and important to human life and as such they directly identify the very preconditions of intelligibility. The truth of the axioms is already implicit in our first perceptual experiences, since the axioms identify what we directly perceive. So long as we are conscious of anything, the axioms are present. In fact, the axioms are implicit in all perception, since perception is the fundamental, pre-conceptual awareness of some object by some conscious subject. Perception is perception of something, so the only validation that the axioms require is the relationship between a knowing subject and the objects it perceives.” 36


        Based on all I’ve presented thus far, I think it’s safe to conclude that in the knowledge process — from its base, to its acquisition, to its validation — at no point is “faith” required. In other words, “faith” is not needed for “jumping the gap from the evidence to certainty,” for in the conceptual process just described, there is no “jumping” or “gap” to begin with.

        But maybe I missed something. Let’s find out…

        You write: “If you act on anything, you have faith.”

        Flies and flees act. Do they have faith when perceiving and navigating their environment? How about a pig? A horse? A mouse? A dog? Do these and other animals have faith when they act?

        According to Christianity, Satan acts. Would you say this character has faith?

        According to Christianity, Judas acted. Did he have faith?

        Christians tell us all the time that their god acts. Does it have faith? Can it doubt?

        Christians allege that the Holy Spirit is a “person” who actually acts in their lives. Does it have faith?

        Even though they weren’t Christian, would you say that the 9/11 terrorists who flew planes into the World Trade Center had faith when they took this action?

        Does one act on faith when committing an evil act? When thinking about committing an evil act?

        What is the difference between acting on faith to do good vs. acting on faith to do evil?

        When you imagine heaven and being face-to-face with the Christian god, do you imagine that it will take faith to perceive him? Why or why not?

        If I get into my car, having faith that when I drive down the highway, I will not get into a crash — but then I do get into a crash — would you say that it was an act of faith which was responsible for my getting into a collision?

        You say: “This is completely unlike the modern idea that faith is something in the absence of evidence, and that the two are opposite methods of knowing the world.”

        I’m not exactly sure what you’re trying to say here. “Faith” and **what** are “two opposite methods of knowing the world”?
        As brought out earlier, the only means I know for knowing anything, including “the world” is: reason.

        You also write: “This sort of faith is a trust in your own ability to properly know the world;…”

        This is just more stolen concepts, brought to you by the Prior Certainty of Consciousness premise. 37

        My cognitive tools (i.e., my “ability to properly know the world”) were reliable before I had knowledge of their existence. So how could “trust” even apply at that stage, at the perceptual level, prior to my knowledge of their (my cognitive tools) existence? In fact, at the perceptual stage, not only would “trust” not apply in “your own ability to know the world,” but neither would “distrust.” Try it sometime — try to “distrust” your senses (for example, by touching a hot stove), and see if they don’t still deliver reliable information about the world around you.

        “Trust” is a higher abstraction, a concept that would be unavailable until the senses had already (and non-volitionally) given one awareness of something *to* trust. Where would “faith,” as you’ve described it, obtain prior to that happening?

        This fallacy notwithstanding, I’m curious, (and I may have touched upon this earlier): What about my ability to properly know what “doubt” is? Does that take faith? And, per your assertion, that “[i]f you act on anything, then you act on faith”: If I act on doubt, does this mean that I am really acting on faith?

        You continue: “…a faith that you really do see the things that you see and really do experience the things that you experience.”

        Maybe it’s just your way of emphasizing your point, but I’m curious: Why detach perception from experience? To experience anything, wouldn’t one have perceive it in some fashion? And if one perceives something, isn’t one then experiencing something?

        Be that as it may, I think I’ve already made the case that “faith” wouldn’t even be in play when it comes to the perception of objects or to the experiencing of something. If you didn’t really “see the things that you see” or really “experience the things you experience,” then there would be no basis on which to even form any concepts, including concepts like “faith.”

        So your statement essentially advocates a complete reversal of the process.

        You wrote: “Your mind could be mistaken or corrupted in some way so that you can’t truthfully see and know what’s going on in the real world, but most of us don’t question the accuracy of our minds.”

        Let’s call this the “What If You’re Wrong?” approach to knowledge. Before I address it directly, let me (again) ask a few simple question: Would you say that we can know with 100% certainty that man is fallible? Do you doubt that man is fallible? Would you say that it requires faith to know with 100% certainty that man is fallible? Or are you certain of the knowledge you have that man is fallible, without faith?

        There is no doubt whatsoever that errors can occur in one’s thinking. But what is an “error,” if not a departure from being right or correct? And what is “doubt,” if not a departure from its very basis: certainty? As Peikoff rightly asks: “How can one form such concepts as ‘mistake’ or ‘error’ while wholly ignorant of what is correct?” 38

        He goes on: “Fallibility does not make knowledge impossible. Knowledge is what makes possible the discovery of fallibility… 39 Doubt, rationally exercised, is a temporary, transitional state, which is applicable only to (some) higher-level questions — and which itself expresses a cognitive judgement: that the evidence one has is still inconclusive [a certainty in this context, by the way]. As such, doubt is made possible only by a vast context of knowledge in the doubter’s mind. The doubter must know both facts and logic; he must know the facts known so far [other certainties] — and also the means by which in principle his doubt is eventually to be removed, i.e., what else is required to reach full proof… Is man capable of certainty? Since man has a faculty of knowledge and nonomniscience is no obstacle to its use, there is only one rational answer: certainly.” 40

        Additionally, Peikoff addresses your complaint head on, when he writes: “It is possible, the skeptic argument declares, for man to be in error; therefore, it is possible that every individual is in error on every question. This argument is a non sequitur; it is an equivocation on the term ‘possible.’

        What is possible to a species under some circumstances, is not necessarily possible to every individual member of that species under every set of circumstances. Thus, it is possible for a human being to run the mile in less than four minutes; and it is possible for a human being to be pregnant. I cannot, however, go over to a crippled gentleman in his wheelchair and say: ‘Perhaps you’ll give birth to a son next week, after you’ve run the mile to the hospital in 3.9 minutes — after all, you’re human, and it is possible for human beings to do these things.’

        The same principle applies to the possibility of error. 41

        Doubting without a basis is the equivalent of — is indeed a form of — asserting without a basis. Both procedures, being arbitrary, are disqualified by the very nature of human cognition. In reason, certainty must precede doubt, just as a grasp of truth must precede the detection of error. To establish a claim to knowledge, what one must do is to prove an idea positively, on the basis of the full context of evidence available; i.e., a man must prove that he is right. It is not incumbent on anyone — nor is it possible — to prove that he is not wrong, when no evidence of error has been offered.” 42

        So, Dan, what is your basis for doubt? Where is your evidence of specific error?

        You wrote: “Thus, it takes faith to believe my statement.”

        If so, then what does this say, not only about the truth-value of your statement, but also about the epistemological reliability of “faith” itself? If “faith” is what supports your belief in your statement, I’d say that this is quite an indictment, not only of “faith” and your statement, but also of whatever epistemological avenue that has led you to this point where you would make such a claim.

        I have shown that the statement: “No evidence for factual things reaches 100%” — is not one which can be integrated without contradiction, nor is it one which can avoid stolen concepts, which means your statement is not in accordance with reason and therefore warrants rejection. Yet, here you are, positing “faith” as an end-around to your statement’s untenability, as if to say, “Why should contradictions matter? Why should stolen concepts matter? Why should reason matter? My statement can be believed anyway.” But, how? “Faith! The assurance of things hoped for, silly! …”

        But faith is not an epistemological process by which knowledge is acquired and validated. 43 Securing truths, whether done by identifying that which can be integrated without contradiction, (denoted by the concept “true”), or by identifying that which contradicts the evidence and/or some aspect of the wider context, (denoted by the concept “false”), or by identifying that which has no relation to evidence or context, (denoted by the concept “arbitrary”) — it is not faith that is required, but reason. 44

        As stated earlier, “reason” is “the faculty that identifies and integrates the material provided by man’s senses. *Rationality* is the unwavering “commitment to reason as one’s only source of knowledge, one’s only judge of values and one’s only guide to action.” 45 As Dawson Bethrick points out: “A position secured by a consistent application of reason has no place, need, or room for faith; and a position accepted on faith will not sustain the demands, scrutiny or challenges of reason. Faith and reason are antipodes, regardless of how strenuously religionists deny this.” 46

        So any acceptance (or rejection) of ideational content (be it the acceptance of 2 + 2 = 4, or the rejection the notion of a “deity,” or “square circles,” or the idea of Tiger Woods playing golf on Pluto, or your statement that “No evidence…”, etc., etc., etc.) on any basis other than reason, (whether that basis be hope, belief, faith, doubt, feelings, tradition, intuition, revelation, wishing, whim, “just knowing,” etc.) — is irrational.

        Faith serves as the great enabler of the irrational, green-lighting the acceptance of ideational content, not only in the absence of evidence or proof, but **in spite of** evidence and proof contradicting such ideational content. 47 This is mysticism in a nutshell. If faith can foster acceptance of the kind of statement(s) you’ve posited, then what’s to stop anyone from accepting and acting on any crazy ol‘ thing, and doing so based upon faith?

        Having nothing to do with our means of perceiving and identifying reality; born of wishing, hoping, and fear, none of which have anything to do with objects of desire or dread actually being real; reinforced by incoherent storybook teachings (cf. Romans 8:24, Hebrews 11:1), faith is as anti-reason of a concept as you can get.

        Rather than serving as any kind of cognitive tool or “method” for going “from the evidence to certainty,” faith is fundamentally an emotion, a false-confidence, which its adherents appeal to and act on in an effort to suppress the uneasiness they experience when, for example, they are occasionally struck by faint realizations that what they are hoping, wishing, fearing, and wasting their life on, really is only imaginary.

        So, to offer just one rewrite for your statement, “Faith is jumping the gap from the evidence to certainty”:

        Faith is a feeling for avoiding the chasm that exists between what is real and what is only imaginary.

        (By the way, since you’re a defender of faith and I’ve introduced the notion of “square circles” into this discussion, I would really be curious to know what you would say faith’s role would be in one’s acceptance or rejection of such a notion as square circles.)

        I will let Peikoff speak for me in summing up just how intertwined mysticism (in this case, Christianity) and skepticism really are: “If mysticism advocates the promiscuous acceptance of ideas, skepticism advocates their promiscuous doubt. The mystic ‘just knows’ whatever he wants to believe; the skeptic ‘just doesn’t know’ whatever he wants not to believe. The operative term and guiding force here is ‘wants,” i.e., feeling. **Both** viewpoints reduce to emotionalism; both represent the reliance on feeling as a cognitive guide. Both represent a denial of man’s need for logic and an enshrinement of the arbitrary.

        Both the mystic and the skeptic are exponents of faith… The mystic has faith that there is certainty which eludes the mind; the skeptic has faith that the mind’s certainties are no certainties at all… Both doctrines, if upheld at all, must be matters of faith; a proof of either would be fatal to it.”

        Why would proof be fatal to both?

        Peikoff explains: “A process of proof commits a man to its presuppositions and implications. It thus commits him to an entire philosophic approach — to the validity of sense perception, the validity of reason, the need of objectivity, the method of logic, the processes of conceptual knowledge, the law of identity, the absolutism of reality. This approach is incompatible with the ideas of mystics and skeptics alike.

        A God susceptible to proof would wither and starve the spirit of mysticism. Such an entity would be finite and limited; it would be one thing among others within the universe, a thing bound by identity and causality, capable of being integrated without contradiction into man’s cognitive context, incompatible with miracles, revelations, and the other paraphernalia of unreason…

        The same applies to the skeptic’s doubt. A doubt susceptible of objective validation would also have to be finite, contextual, and bound by the rules of evidence. Such a doubt would be one assessment among others within the universe of rational knowledge.” 48

        Yes, for the sake of both the mystic and the skeptic, it’s best that their doctrines operate in the shadows, away from proof, for that is how faith and doubt thrive. To do otherwise and expose them to the shining light of reason, would cause them both to implode and, thereby, give away the game.

        You continue: “No one is required to believe it, or anything really.”

        That’s good to hear, but did you come to this conclusion based upon faith? Should I take this conclusion on faith? What if someone else comes along and tells me that I must believe your statement? Or they tell me I must reject evolution? Or that I must believe the statements contained in the bible, otherwise I will go to hell?

        I’m reminded of a couple of things Rand wrote: “Faith in the supernatural begins as faith in the superiority of others” and “an error made on your own is safer than ten truths accepted on faith, because the first leaves you the means to correct it, but the second destroys your capacity to distinguish truth from error.” 49

        You wrote: “And as long as one believes, for instance, that he or she exists, that belief was reached by faith, since even that can be cast upon with doubt.”

        I’ve never understood why one would seriously entertain the notion of denying or doubting one’s own existence, let alone why one would posit the notion that “belief” in one’s own existence must be “reached by faith.”

        It is certainly true that one can *cast* doubt upon all sorts of things. But that doesn’t mean such uncertainty has any basis in reality; i.e., that such uncertainty has any truth value, i.e., actually obtains or is rational. I can doubt that I’m actually staring at a computer screen as I type this right now. Jodi Arias can doubt she’s a convicted murderer. Neither are true.

        As for for those who are sincere in denying or doubting their own existence, I say: Let’s see them demonstrate it.

        Over on Debunking Christianity, you asked me to provide you with evidence that there was no such thing as god. I delivered on that request.

        So now I have a request: Please provide evidence that would serve as a rational basis on which to genuinely doubt that you, I, or existence, actually exists. In attempting such a feat, please do so without performatively contradicting yourself in the process, thereby nullifying the very thing you set out to prove, i.e., do so without demonstrating, with certainty, that you actually exist by the very act of being able to doubt, (or for that matter, even being able to present an argument).

        In other words: No matter the content of your claim, argument or evidence, implicit in the very act of: researching it, formulating it, supplying me with it, etc.; breathing, eating, taking breaks, etc. — would be *all* of the following: 



        (a) something would have to exist from which to draw any content, (answering the questions: Knowledge of *what*? Or: Doubt *what*?)



        (b) you would need to be conscious (or aware of that which exists, answering the question: *Knowledge* of what? Or: *Doubt* what?)

        

(c) you would be engaging in specific actions as opposed to other actions, e.g., evaluating, writing, thinking, doubting as opposed to getting drunk, sleeping, going to church, beating your wife, etc. 



        (d) there would be a relationship between the objects of awareness (existence) and the means by which you are aware of them (consciousness)

        

(e) these objects that you perceive around you would neither depend on nor conform to what you want, prefer, believe, have faith in, doubt, imagine, wish, feel, pray about, or emote, etc.

        The only questions at that point would be: Is the content of your claim or argument and/or its supporting evidence consistent with all of the above? Or does the content contradict, cast doubt on, deny, ignore or otherwise attempt to undercut any or all of points (a) through (e)?

        Incorporating your assertion into something from Rand, I paraphrase: “…’As long as one believes that he or she exists, even that can be cast upon with doubt,’ they chatter, blanking out the fact that ‘belief’ and ‘doubt’ presupposes existence, consciousness and a complex chain of knowledge: the existence of something to know, believe, or doubt; of a consciousness able to know, believe, or doubt it; and of a knowledge that has learned to distinguish between such concepts as belief, doubt and certainty.” 50

        You wrote: “As for the vanishing comment, I didn’t realize there was something in my spam folder. But, apparently that’s where your comment went. I hope I got everything.”

        I didn’t notice anything out of place. And thanks again for retrieving it. As a result, I now know with 100% certainty that my comment has been posted. No faith required.

        Part III should be ready soon.
        __________________________________
        ENDNOTES

        30 Ayn Rand. “Faith and Force: The Destroyers of the Modern World”. Philosophy: Who Needs It. p. 62
        http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/reason.html

        31 Leonard Peikoff. The Ominous Parallels. p. 305

        32 Leonard Peikoff. Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand. p. 4 – 5

        33 Ibid. p. 7

        34 Ayn Rand. Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, Second Expanded Edition. p. 55, 59

        35 Dawson Bethrick. Answers to “50 Important Philosophical Questions”. http://bahnsenburner.blogspot.com/2012/09/answers-to-50-important-philosophical.html * bracketed material [ ] in the first entry in the list is from Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, p. 55

        36 Dawson Bethrick. Probing Mr. Manata’s Poor Understanding of the Axioms. http://bahnsenburner.blogspot.com/2005/10/probing-mr-manatas-poor-understanding.html

        37 For more on the Prior Certainty of Consciousness, see here: http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/prior_certainty_of_consciousness.html

        38 Leonard Peikoff, “‘Maybe You’re Wrong’” . The Objectivist Forum, April 1981, 8 . http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/skepticism.html

        39 Ibid. 8

        40 Leonard Peikoff. Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand. p.181

        41 Leonard Peikoff, “‘Maybe You’re Wrong’”. The Objectivist Forum, April 1981, 10

        42 Ibid. 12

        43 Dawson Bethrick. Reaction to My Critique of Anderson and Welty’s “The Lord of Non-Contradiction”. (Comment Thread – March 02, 2012 2:14 PM) http://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=11714522&postID=4241056844531774839&isPopup=true

        44 Leonard Peikoff. Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand. p. 166

        45 http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/rationality.html

        46 Dawson Bethrick. Craig Keener on Miracles. http://bahnsenburner.blogspot.com/2012/06/craig-keener-on-miracles.html ; Faith as Belief Without Understanding. http://bahnsenburner.blogspot.com/2012/06/craig-keener-on-miracles.html

        47 Leonard Peikoff. The Ominous Parallels. p. 54

        48 Leonard Peikoff. Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand. p. 183, 184

        49 http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/faith.html

        50 Leonard Peikoff. Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand. p. 154 – also available here: http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/stolen_concept,_fallacy_of.html

  8. Hi Dan,

    Just a very quick reply to say that I haven’t read the entirety of your most recent reply to me, but I did see enough to inspire me to take a little time away from work to say thanks for fishing my earlier comment out of wherever it was.

    I also need to clear something up: The material which you read at the links supplied? It was not written by me. All that material was written by Dawson Betrhick, (except for the material written by Anton Thorn, which was written by Anton Thorn). I’m neither of those individuals and neither of their respective blogs are mine. If I gave you the impression that this was the case, I apologize for that, for I certainly didn’t intend to do that.

    But I am a big fan of their respective works.

    Anyway, I will try to read the rest of your post later.

    Thanks.

    Ydemoc

  9. First, the way in which the word “faith” is used by the person who poses the question is quite different in science and in religious beliefs. All scientific constructs or so-called theories are constructs of the mind. In that sense, we accept them just in terms of whatever evidence we can gather in their favor or against them. In the case of scientific theories, what we do is to formulate them in such a way that they can be used to make predictions about the states of affairs in the real world. And then we do confirm or corroborate the theories by making those observations or experiments that deal with predictions derived from the theories. So if we have a theory, which is a construct of the mind, and we are able to corroborate it or reject it by subjecting it to verification or corroboration, as I said, we’re confronting it with observations or experiments that we make. Religious faith belongs to a completely different realm of knowledge. In the case of faith, we are accepting revelation or teachings that we do not expect to corroborate in an empirical way. We corroborate them or accept them in terms of the implications they may have, the effects they may have for our own personal life and the life of other individuals. But this is a very different kind of corroboration from what we do in science, where any experiment or observation made in favor or against a theory can, in turn, be confirmed or rejected by other individuals. That is, it is possible always to replicate the observations or to make alternate observations derived from the same theory. In the case of religious faith, we don’t have this kind of experimental verification, the possibility of subjecting theories to verification by reproducible testing, the possibility of having other individuals doing the same observations for experiment.

  10. Hello Dan and Ydemoc from Robert Bumbalough. May I join the conversaion? If so, then I request the moderator accept the following comment for posting. Thank you.

    Ydemoc wrote: By perceiving any “thing,” that “thing” is perceptually self-evident by virtue of it having been perceived. Indeed, I would maintain that if this were not the case, then there would be no basis upon which to form (let alone, be capable of using) such concepts as “perceive,” “certainty,” or “doubt” in the first place!

    Well said Ydemoc. One of the reasons why we can know idealism is invalid is that our senses are physical and as such are physically caused to produce sensations due to impingement of material particles or forces encoding information sourced from material existence. Because casualty is a meronomic reaction of an entity including its attributes due to the action of some other entity, we can be 100% certain that both Descartes and Kant and their followers were and are wrong.

  11. You [Dan] continue: “…that everything is vulnerable to doubt in some way…”

    Ydemoc replied: “Everything” is vulnerable to doubt? Well, then wouldn’t your very claim have to include the very concept “everything,” and thereby casting doubt on all that it subsumes, which would necessarily have to include “vulnerability” and “doubt” and all in reality which gives rise to these concepts also?

    David Kelly in his book “Evidence of the Senses” noted this very point was long ago made by Plato in argument against Protagoras in Theaetetus. When idealists including skeptics like Dan assert 100% certainty is not achievable, they are simultaneously claiming that their consciousness somehow constitutes its own contents. Kelly described the point:

    In order to assert that consciousness is constitutive, one must
    give some meaning to the idea that its object depends on it. And the
    only possibilities correspond to the two perspectives we can take toward
    consciousness. We can view it from the inside, as its subjects.
    But from this first-person perspective, as we have seen, the claim
    that objects depend on the introspectable awareness of them is simply
    unintelligible. Or we can view it from the outside, from a kind
    of third-person perspective, as a kind of thing in the world whose
    faculties, operating in specific ways, give rise to the conscious
    awareness of objects-and, idealists claim, to the objects themselves.
    From this perspective, we can at least understand what is
    meant in calling consciousness constitutive-if we are talking about
    someone else’s consciousness. And there is the problem. In adopting
    this perspective in the first place, we are implicitly adopting the
    primacy of existence for ourselves as third-person theorists about
    consciousness. We are viewing consciousness as something with an
    objective nature, existing independently of the subject’s awareness
    of it, and independently of our theories about it. The attempt to apply
    this third-person perspective to ourselves while maintaining the
    thesis of the primacy of consciousness, produces the incoherence
    ~ EOTS p.35

    Dan’s claim that he cannot know reality undercuts Dan’s position because as Kelly pointed out the primacy of existence must be assumed in the process of denying it by asserting primacy of consciousness.

  12. Ydemoc: Thanks again for your writing on these matters. Please accept my apology for tardiness in reading your reply to Dan and in commenting. There were circumstances on Friday night and yesterday that consumed my time. But I’ve a bit of free time today, and I hope to read the second part of your reply after shopping. Best.

  13. Hi Dan,

    Here is “Part III,” as promised. If I have a “Part IV,” (and that is a very big “if”), it would only be for the purposes of clarifications and/or corrections.

    _____________________________

    In her book, The Voice of Reason, Ayn Rand was critical of the kind of mentality that asks: “Is it intellectual plagiarism to accept and even to use philosophical principles and values discovered by someone else?” She writes that such a person’s “primary concern, in regard to philosophical principles, is not: ‘Is it true or false?’ but: ‘Who discovered it?’”

    She adds that: “On such a premise, [such a person], would have to make fire by rubbing two sticks together (if he discovers that much), since he is not Edison and cannot accept electric light. He would have to maintain that the earth is flat, since Columbus beat him to the demonstration of its shape. He would have to advocate statism, since he is not Adam Smith. And he would have to discard the laws of logic, since he is not Aristotle.

    The division of labor in the pursuit of knowledge — the fact that men can transmit knowledge and learn from one another’s discoveries — is one of man’s great advantages over all other living species… The truth of an idea and its authorship are two separate issues.” 51

    Throughout my presentation — with proper citation, of course — I have relied heavily upon not only the works of Ayn Rand, but also Leonard Peikoff, Dawson Bethrick, Anton Thorn, David Kelley, C.J. Holmes, et al.

    In accepting and championing their ideas, I have done so not arbitrarily or on faith, but because I have found their ideas to be in accordance with the facts of reality and of great value to the matters under discussion. And in referencing their respective works, I have not done so without a complete understanding of the material being presented. In most instances, I have attempted to make my understanding clear by introducing or summing up their ideas — in my own words.

    In addressing your questions for “Part III,” in the interest of time, accuracy, thoroughness, and clarity, I will be doing more referencing, but less summing up in my own words. I hope you and your readers don’t mind.

    PART III

    You wrote: “Now, here’s an informal comment concerning the primacy of existence vs the primacy of consciousness.”

    What is metaphysical primacy? Anton Thorn explains: “Lying at the base of all knowledge is a relationship between existence and consciousness implied by the identification of the axioms [see below]. That there is a relationship between the objects of awareness (existence) and the means by which we are aware (consciousness), is undeniable. One would have to be conscious – and therefore be conscious of something – in order to dispute this. This recognition necessarily implies that the relationship between existence and consciousness is not a relationship of equals. There is a priority involved here, a hierarchical order implicit in any act of consciousness.” 52

    David Kelley puts it like this: “Is consciousness creative, constituting its own objects, so that the world known depends on ourselves as knowers; or is it a faculty of response to objects, one whose function is to identify things as they are independently of it? In Ayn Rand’s terms, it is a question of the primacy of consciousness versus the primacy of existence: do the objects of awareness depend on the subject for their existence or identity, or do the contents of consciousness depend on external objects?” 53

    Recall the axioms. They are:

    1) that existence exists (i.e., there is a reality)

    

2) that to exist is to be something (A is A, the law of identity), and



    3) that consciousness is conscious of something (the axiom of consciousness)

    As Rand points out: “It is axiomatic concepts that identify the precondition of knowledge: the distinction between existence and consciousness, between reality and the awareness of reality, between the object and the subject of cognition. Axiomatic concepts are the foundation of objectivity.” 54

    

Existence is first. The universe exists independent of consciousness. Awareness (consciousness) with nothing to be aware of is incoherent, a contradiction in terms: Awareness? Awareness of **what**?

    Consciousness (awareness, perception, thinking, and other mental processes) does not have the power to change the laws of nature or erase facts, as Peikoff puts it: “The function of consciousness is not to create reality, but to apprehend it. ‘Existence is Identity, Consciousness is Identification.’” 55 If existence exists, then it has metaphysical primacy. 56

    Dawson Bethrick elaborates: “Together these axioms imply a general, inescapable principle known as the primacy of existence – that is, that existence exists independent of consciousness, which means: the object(s) of consciousness holds metaphysical primacy over the subject of consciousness. This is the objective orientation of the subject-object relationship. 57

    In the words of Anton Thorn: “The primacy of existence view recognizes in the form of a principle that existence exists independent of consciousness. In other words, reality (the realm of existence) does not conform to the contents of consciousness; things are what they are independent of anyone’s wishes, desires, resentments, emotions, fantasies, etc. Since existence exists, that which exists is that which exists (identity) regardless of who likes it or disapproves. On the primacy of existence principle, the function of consciousness is not to determine reality or the identity of its objects, but to discover and identify it.

    Opposite to the primacy of existence principle is the primacy of consciousness view. This view holds that existence is in some way subordinate to consciousness, that things are the way they are not by virtue of the fact that they exist (as the primacy of existence teaches), but because of the desires of a consciousness. This is the view that reality conforms to consciousness, that, instead of acting to discover and identify the facts of reality by means of reason, the function of consciousness is to create and/or determine reality. On this view, one can persuade himself to believe that, if he has enough faith, reality will obey his commands and entire mountains will cast themselves into the sea. Explosives engineers need not apply.” 58

    Unfortunately for theists (and for that matter, any subjectivist), a primacy of consciousness veiwpoint inherent in such a worldview can only backfire on them, as David Kelley explains: “The primacy of consciousness… is subject to the same self-refutation as is the denial of any other axiomatic principle. A person who asserts that the facts of reality depend on his own consciousness [or any consciousness] is making a claim about the nature of consciousness and reality. He intends his claim to be taken as objective, not as a reflective of his own whim. After all, he is asserting that the primacy of existence is false — not just for him, but even for its adherents. So he is assuming that there are facts, and that the function of his mind is to grasp them as they really are, at least in his own case. And that’s inconsistent with his assertion of the primacy of consciousness.” 59

    Anton Thorn points out in his essay “The Issue of Metaphysical Primacy” that “the failure to grasp the distinction between the primacy of existence and the primacy of consciousness is the result of the failure to isolate essentials.” He asks readers who may be having difficulty, to consider the following two questions:

    1. Can there be consciousness without existence?


    2. Can there be existence without consciousness? 60

    So, as you can see, quite a bit has been written on this topic.

    You wrote: “It seems to me that Objectivism thrives on the separation of the subject and the object.”

    Can you explain what you mean by “separation” here, and then cite where Objectivism does what you mean?

    As laid out above regarding the issue of metaphysical primacy, Objectivism recognizes there is a fundamental distinction between the objects of awareness (existence) and the means by which one is aware of such objects (consciousness), and that there is a relationship between the two. As David Kelley notes: “Perception is a form of contact with the world, a real relation between subject and object, between the perceiver and what he perceives.” 61

    So how does any of this imply “separation”? And, again, where does the the Christian bible speak directly to such matters?

    You wrote: “But, discerning a distinction doesn’t necessitate a separation.”

    How does anything that Objectivism advocates imply “separation”?

    You wrote: “For, we know that, as human beings, we are subjects and objects.”

    Dan? Where did your doubt go? You state this with such certainty!

    As human beings, we can be perceivers and we can be perceived, we can be knowers and we can be known. And we can even become acquainted with the cognitive workings by which we acquire such knowledge, in which case our own consciousness can become an object to itself, as when we become aware of our own conscious activity when we introspect. 62

    But this only means that consciousness can be a ***secondary object,*** (it’s not consciousness conscious *only* of itself — which would be a contradiction in terms, i.e., asserting “awareness” with nothing to be “aware of” — as if awareness could exist in an objectless-void. Again, “awareness” of **what**!?). 63

    If I see tree, a house, a human being or any other object of awareness, I am perceiving it — it is an object.

    When I think about my perception of the tree, house, or human being, my perception of such objects “becomes what is properly understood as a secondary object of consciousness” (since I *first* had to perceive the tree, house, or human being in order for my perception of any of them to be an object of awareness.)

    An object is anything one perceives and/or considers. It can be an extra-mental entity like a house, tree, or another human being, or it can be a conscious activity, such as the awareness of these objects. 64

    Dawson Bethrick explains further: “…introspective investigation of conscious activity always involves some object independent of consciousness. For instance, if I think about how I came to the conclusion that running with scissors in one’s hands is dangerous, I could be aware of my own conscious activity only **after I was aware of something *** in the world, **something independent of myself, something independent of my awareness**. Prior to being able to do this, my senses were active, giving me perceptual awareness of things like scissors and organisms capable of holding and running with them, consequently giving me the option of considering such activity and evaluating it, or ignoring it and going on with some other activity.” 65

    In “The Argument from Metaphysical Primacy: A Debate,” Dawson puts it like this: “I perceive other human beings, and when I do they are objects of my awareness. But note that I cannot wish them into existence. Nor can I wish them to become something they are not (just as I cannot wish water to become wine). Why? Because the objects of consciousness hold metaphysical primacy over the subject of consciousness. It’s a fact whether anyone likes it or not.

    One can perceive other persons, and for the perceiver those other persons are the objects of his perception. Also, I can introspect, so that I can have awareness of how my own conscious faculty works. But in such a case, consciousness is only a secondary object; I had to perceive something external to it to have something to identify as consciousness in the first place.

    In the case of perceiving other human beings or introspecting on the operations of my own conscious activity, the same orientation between subject and object obtains: the objects remain what they are independent of the conscious activity involved in perceiving and/or considering them.” 66

    You wrote: “These two things are, in us, one and the same thing. We exist and we are conscious. Our consciousness exists and our consciousness is conscious. It is subject and object. To say I exist and I am conscious is to look at one and the same thing, namely myself, from different aspects.”

    I think that what has been explained above is more than sufficient to address your comment. But just in case it isn’t clear to you, here is a little more on the topic from Dawson Bethrick, from his blog entry: “Has the Primacy of Existence Been Refuted?”:

    “Let me say a few words then about the nature of consciousness and how it secures the principle of the secondary objectivity of consciousness.

    The principle of the secondary objectivity of consciousness holds that consciousness can in fact be its own object (where ‘object’ denotes something one is aware of), but only after it has content other than itself. Objectivism recognizes that consciousness is not an independently existing entity, but in fact a particular type of activity performed by a biological organism. I have already posted a discussion of mine in which I defend the view that consciousness is in fact biological (see my blog The Biological Nature of Consciousness). 67 Speaking on the nature of consciousness as it pertains to philosophy, Rand wrote:

    ‘Awareness is not a passive state, but an active process. On the lower levels of awareness, a complex neurological process is required to enable man to experience a sensation and to integrate sensations into percepts; that process is automatic and non-volitional: man is aware of its results, but not of the process itself. On the higher, conceptual level, the process is psychological, conscious and volitional. In either case, awareness is achieved and maintained by continuous action.
    Directly or indirectly, every phenomenon of consciousness is derived from one’s awareness of the external world. Some object, i.e., some content, is involved in every state of awareness. Extrospection is a process of cognition directed outward—a process of apprehending some existent(s) of the external world. Introspection is a process of cognition directed inward—a process of apprehending one’s own psychological actions in regard to some existent(s) of the external world, such actions as thinking, feeling, reminiscing, etc. It is only in relation to the external world that the various actions of a consciousness can be experienced, grasped, defined or communicated. Awareness is awareness of something. A content-less state of consciousness is a contradiction in terms.’ (Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, p. 37)

    And just as one cannot be conscious of a thing unless it exists, one cannot be conscious of an activity until it happens. Since consciousness is essentially an action performed by an organism, the action of consciousness would need to happen before it could be available as an object of any consciousness, including its own. In other words, an organism cannot be conscious of its own consciousness until it has performed those actions by which it is conscious of something; before this, it’s simply not available as an object to be conscious of.

    This is true for the three basic levels of consciousness which man possesses, namely the level of sensation, of perception, and of conceptualization. One could not be conscious of one’s own sensations until he has sensed something; only then could his sensory activity be available as an object of his own consciousness. Similarly with perception: one could not be conscious of one’s own perception until he has perceived something; only then could his perceptual activity be available as an object of his own consciousness. Lastly, one could not be conscious of one’s own conceptualization until he has conceptualized something; only then could his conceptual activity be available as an object of his own consciousness.

    So there are three fundamental facts about the nature of consciousness to consider here:

    1. Consciousness requires an object.
    2. Consciousness is essentially active in nature.
    3. Consciousness cannot be its own object unless it exists, which means: until it happens.


    It is for these reasons, as explained above, that conscious can in fact be an object of itself, but only as a secondary object – it must have an object distinct from its own activity before its own activity can itself be an object of its own activity. Thus Objectivism is correct in affirming that the notion of a consciousness conscious only of itself is a contradiction in terms: it would constitute an affirmation of consciousness while ignoring the nature of consciousness. Thus the notion commits the fallacy of the stolen concept.” 68

    You wrote: “My existence just is my consciousness; and these two do not exist independent from one another.”

    You seem to be ignoring basic facts and taking a lot for granted, treating consciousness as though it were an entity as opposed to an activity performed by an entity.

    You continue: “Thus, for my consciousness to conform to the fact of my own existence, I would have to first presuppose my own existence in order for my consciousness to conform itself to my own existence.”

    What do you mean by “presuppose” here? Why not simply acknowledge explicitly the fact that you do exist and proceed to use your consciousness in a rational manner? — after all, existence, which includes consciousness, is implicit in everything you do anyway. Why struggle against it?

    You wrote: “The elephant stands on the turtle which stands on the elephant… you get the picture.”

    Again, from Dawson Bethrick: “So, to put the matter in a nutshell and hopefully bring it home for those who may still be having a hard time understanding this, we can safely say: it is perfectly fine to speak of consciousness, and in so doing, consciousness is an object of our speaking – i.e., it is an object of consciousness at that point. But since consciousness requires and object, the very idea of consciousness of consciousness forces the question: Consciousness of consciousness of what? To answer this by saying “consciousness of consciousness of itself” is essentially to say: “Consciousness of consciousness of consciousness,” which in turn forces the obvious question: Consciousness of consciousness of consciousness of what? To continue lengthening the chain by adding more instances of “of consciousness” to answer this question, is to confess that one really has no answer, but insists on there not being any object independent of consciousness itself. At which point we can wonder why, but it couldn’t be important – no evasion of reality ever is.” 69

    In other words, Objectivism avoids the charge of circularity/infinite regress implicit in your “turtles all the way down” charge, thanks to its conceptually irreducible and perceptually self-evident starting points, i.e., the axioms and the primacy of existence. So there is no occasion for circularity.

    When I had difficulty grasping some of this (and I’m not saying that this is the case where you’re concerned…. I’m just throwing it out there), I found that answering the question “Awareness — awareness of **what**!?! — to be quite helpful.

    You wrote: I have more to say, but I’ve already run out of time.

    And I probably could’ve said way less, as I probably had *way too much* time! (You don’t doubt that I could’ve said way less, do you?)

    You conclude: “I look forward to interacting with your ideas a little more.”

    Same here, and thanks for allowing me to post all this on your blog. If nothing else, this process has given me a chance to familiarize myself with material I wasn’t acquainted with, while at the same time allowing me to further integrate material which I was familiar with. And perhaps it’s given you even **more** ideas to interact with, should you choose to do so.

    But just in case there’s room for doubt as to whether or not I have, indeed, presented you with a tremendous amount of material, or that faith is somehow required to recognize this fact, let me leave you with a few more final thoughts, this from David Kelley:

    “We do not begin as knowers with beliefs whose truth we must posit, without warrant, before we can develop standards for the reliability of belief-forming processes. We begin with the direct perceptual awareness of objects and their attributes; we notice similarities that allow us to form and apply concepts; and we are implicitly aware of the ontological facts that the principles of logic identify. Since we are capable of grasping facts, we are in a position to recognize errors when they
    occur, and thus recognize the fact of our fallibility. Since we are capable of identifying the nature of things in the world, we are capable of identifying the nature of our own faculties as things in the world, and of learning how to minimize the dangers of their malfunctioning. At each stage, from perception to concepts to the rules of evidence to the rules of justification, our conclusions are fully grounded in and justified by what came before. We cannot go back psychologically, taking with us only
    our epistemological principles, and actually relearn everything anew. But we can look back epistemologically, using the principles we have learned, and evaluate the whole structure of knowledge in a fully normative and noncircular way.” 70

    There! That ought to do the trick!

    Ydemoc

    __________________________
    ENDNOTES

    51 Ayn Rand. The Voice of Reason: Essays in Objectivist Thought. p 19 – 20/

    52 Anton Thorn. TAG and the Fallacy of the Stolen Concept: An Overview of TAG and Internal Reasons Why It Must Fail. For link, see below.

    53 David Kelley. The Evidence of the Senses. p. 8 ; also see Ayn Rand, “The Metaphysical Versus the Man-Made” in Philosophy: Who Needs It

    54 Ayn Rand. Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. p 57

    55 Leonard Peikoff. The Ominous Parallels. p. 303

    56 Leonard Peikoff. Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand. p. 23

    57 Dawson Bethrick. Bahnsen’s Poof Revisited. http://bahnsenburner.blogspot.com/2005/11/bahnsens-poof-revisited.html

    58 Anton Thorn. TAG and the Fallacy of the Stolen Concept: An Overview of TAG and Internal Reasons Why It Must Fail. http://www.oocities.org/athens/sparta/1019/Morgue/TAG_Stolen_Concept.htm

    59 William Thomas and David Kelley. The Logical Structure of Objectivism. p. 25 (pdf. page 32)

    60 Thorn’s answers (and the rest of his essay) are available here: http://www.oocities.org/athens/sparta/1019/AFE/Metaphysical_Primacy.htm

    61 Chris Matthew Sciabarra. Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical, p. 162

    62 Dawson Bethrick. Rick Warden’s Critique of Objectivism. http://bahnsenburner.blogspot.com/2010/10/rick-wardens-critique-of-objectivism.html

    63 Dawson Bethrick. Incinerating Presuppositionalism. http://bahnsenburner.blogspot.com

    64 Dawson Bethrick. Rick Warden’s Critique of Objectivism. http://bahnsenburner.blogspot.com/2010/10/rick-wardens-critique-of-objectivism.html

    65 Dawson Bethrick. Dodging the Subject-Object Relationship. http://katholon.com/Dodging_the_Subject-Object_Relationship.htm

    66 Dawson Bethrick. The Argument from Metaphysical Primacy: A Debate. http://katholon.com/DBvPM1005.htm

    67 Dawson Bethrick. The Biological Nature of Consciousness. http://bahnsenburner.blogspot.com/2010/06/biological-nature-of-consciousness.html

    68 Dawson Bethrick. Has the Primacy of Existence Been Refuted? http://bahnsenburner.blogspot.com/2011/10/has-primacy-of-existence-been-refuted.html

    69 Ibid.

    70 David Kelley. Evidence and Justification. p. 17

  14. Hello readers, Dan, Ydemoc, and all

    It’s a lovely day for discussing how rational philosophy defeats superstitious mysticism. When Rand penned what Ydemoc refered to in his footnote 37 she shown the light of reason upon the witch doctor’s fallacy. In “For the New Intellectual” she has Galt tell the reader about the Prior Certainty of Consciousness



    Descartes began with the basic epistemological premise of every Witch Doctor (a premise he shared explicitly with Augustine): “the prior certainty of consciousness,” the belief that the existence of an external world is not self-evident, but must be proved by deduction from the contents of one’s consciousness—which means: the concept of consciousness as some faculty other than the faculty of perception—which means: the indiscriminate contents of one’s consciousness as the irreducible primary and absolute, to which reality has to conform. What followed was the grotesquely tragic spectacle of philosophers struggling to prove the existence of an external world by staring, with the Witch Doctor’s blind, inward stare, at the random twists of their conceptions—then of perceptions—then of sensations.

    When the medieval Witch Doctor had merely ordered men to doubt the validity of their mind, the philosophers’ rebellion against him consisted of proclaiming that they doubted whether man was conscious at all and whether anything existed for him to be conscious of.

    Christianity shares with the Cartesian tradition the question begging assumption that consciousness is an autonomous substance that somehow constitutes the objects of consciousness for its own subject. David Kelly elaborated in Evidence of the Senses.

    Consider once again Descartes’ cogito. I know that I am conscious. The fact is self-evident to me; I could not pOSSibly be wrong
    in believing it, since even a false belief presupposes that I am conscious. But it is equally self-evident that to be conscious is to be conscious of something. Awareness is inherently relational. Whenever we see, hear, discover, discriminate, prove, grasp, or know, there is some object of the cognitive state. Even the faintest sensation is a
    sensation of something-a patch of color, a wisp of sound. Ifwe take away all such content, we have taken away consciousness. Since Kant at least, this point has been a phenomenological truism. But the point has normally been expressed in such a way as to make the content a feature of the awareness of it. In his famous statement of
    the thesis of intentionality, for example, Franz Brentano says that “every mental phenomenon includes something as object within itself,” explicitly distinguishing the intentional existence of an object for consciousness and its real or actual existence.

    It is precisely this contrast that realism denies-as inconsistent with the first-person, phenomenological experience of awareness and as unsupported by any secondary arguments. The object of awareness is the object as it actually exists. A typewriter sits on the desk before me. I see it against the background of desk top and papers, I feel the keys and hear the whirring sound it makes. Do these things exist in my consciousness? Certainly not, not in any way that is available to me from my standpoint as the subject of my perceptual awareness. When I reflect on my awareness of those objects, I am aware of it as something completely uncreative, merely a revelation of what is there.
    The desk, the typewriter, the keys exist in a world that I am in, not one that is in me. My attention to each object comes and goes, but the onset of attention is not experienced as the coming-to-be of that object. When I turn my head to view the room behind, what comes to be is not the room but my awareness of it; the room is experienced as a permanent existent which I can explore sequentially. Each thing I perceive has an identity, it is something. And it is what it is, not what I make it. These things before me are not at all like the ob jects of imagination, which I can shape to suit myself. And even my awareness is something independent of my reflective awareness of it. As I tum my attention to the fact that I am aware of these objects I experience that awareness as something which had been going on all along. From this standpoint, the thesis that consciousness is primary is literally unintelligible-unless one drops the context in which we grasp what it is to be aware of an object.

    Consider Descartes’ question “whether any of the objects of which I have ideas within me exist outside of me.” Having an idea of something means being conscious of it, and the consciousness of an object may be said, metaphorically, to be “within” me. But Descartes is suggesting that the object I am conscious of might also be within me, i.e., within my consciousness. How could that be? I can isolate my consciousness only by distinguishing it from the objects I am aware of. Those objects (the typewriter, the room, etc.) are the “out there” against which I can isolate my consciousness as the “in here.” To suggest that these objects themselves might exist in consciousness is to deny the very condition that makes it possible to understand what consciousness is. So far, then, the idealist claim that the objects of awareness depend on consciousness, or the skeptic’s worry that they might so depend, is simply unintelligible. EOTS p.31-32

    By believing that one must have faith that existence exists, one is postulating that the objects of consciousness only exist within the subject self. But if that were the case, how could one distinguish one’s own self as subject from the objects of cognition? Our direct experience of consciousness is as a relationship between self as subject of consciousness and perceived objects of consciousness. Hence consciousness cannot be a substance that makes its own objects because then one would not be able to distinguish self from other.

    1. Robert,

      I left a reply for you over on Dawson’s blog, but it hasn’t posted yet.

      Thanks for reading my stuff and commenting on it. And, of course, no problem for any delay in doing so.

      And thanks for posting that stuff from David Kelley. I recall coming across that passage as I was crafting my response to Dan, but neglected to include it. In this new light, I see now that it would’ve fit nicely.

      Ydemoc

      1. Hello Ydemoc. You’re welcome. It’s a pleasure to read Objectivist quotes and literature because the rational philosophy of Objectivism helps me to live a better life. That’s what philosophy is about, helping human beings live better. Rand reminded the world of this when she spoke through Galt saying:

        For centuries, the battle of morality was fought between those who claimed that your life belongs to God and those who claimed that it belongs to your neighbors—between those who preached that the good is self-sacrifice for the sake of ghosts in heaven and those who preached that the good is self-sacrifice for the sake of incompetents on earth. And no one came to say that your life belongs to you and that the good is to live it.
        ~ http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/good,_the.html

        Contra to Dan’s claim that that consciousness can be its own object, Rand pointed out that If nothing exists, there can be no consciousness: a consciousness with nothing to be conscious of is a contradiction in terms. A consciousness conscious of nothing but itself is a contradiction in terms: before it could identify itself as consciousness, it had to be conscious of something. If that which you claim to perceive does not exist, what you possess is not consciousness. ~ http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/consciousness.html

        When mystics like Dan claim consciousness is its own object, they’re implicitly claiming that consciousness is a substance. In my experience I’ve observed that in other contexts they’ll explicitly claim that consciousness isn’t a brain function, but is the mystical “soul” that cannot be detected by any natural means because its “supernatural”. To hold both positions, they must also maintain there isn’t any stand alone existence that is what it is independent of any form of consciousness and that which is perceived comes from the mind of their deity rather than from existence. This is because the soul can’t interact with nature per se, yet is somehow processing information. These mystics further deny that information only happens as an encoding embodied in material particles so they must hold that all conscious experience is the Cartesian-demon like product of the ultimate solipist their deity. However, they also will generally acknowledge that consciousness is a relationship between subject and object.

        David Kelly, in ETOS, explains that mystical Idealists take these contradictory positions because of difference between first person and third person perspectives of consciousness. In the former, consciousness is simply an awareness of what exists under a subject-object relational paradigm that seems transparent. When we introspect the sensation of seeing the color blue, all we sense is the blue. There isn’t any feeling of how we experience the sensation of blue, so such sensations seem transparent or diaphanous. From a third person perspective, we determine that cognitive actions map to neurological brain functions. When test subjects do math problems while being MRI or PET brain scanned, we can detect increased metabolic activity in their occipital lobes. Try as one might, when doing calculus they can’t feel their occipital lobe working. The difference between these two perspectives on consciousness leads to the assumption that in order for consciousness to know reality, it must do so transparently. Such diaphanous action is taken to mean consciousness must lack identity to perceive reality per se qua reality. But consciousness does have identity, and that fact is seized upon by mystical idealists as a base from which to claim one can’t know reality, so what one knows isn’t real but is the product of another consciousness either a ruling cosmic one or a collective social consciousness. Kelly noted:

        In this way, the diaphanous model has been common currency among competing theories in epistemology, along with the premise we uncovered at the basis of Kant’s system: that if consciousness has an identity of its own, it cannot grasp the identities of things exter­nal to it. Idealists have affirmed the antecedent, hence the conse­quent; realists have denied the consequent, hence the antecedent. To preserve the primacy
        of existence, realists have traditionally re­sisted the facts of perceptual reIativity.46 At the conceptual level, they have insisted that our classificatory hierarchies of species and gen­
        era must reflect an external hierarchy in the nature of things. And
        although they maintain that objects exist and are what they are in­dependently of us, realists have refused to apply this truth to con­sciousness by granting it an identity. Idealists take the failure of this approach as proof of the primacy of consciousness, maintaining that consciousness creates its own contents. But to make this claim, they must step outside the confines of their thesis to observe how consciousness operates behind the scenes, offering what they observe from that perspective as a fact they did not create. So long as the basic premise is not challenged, such incoherence will be unavoid­able, and epistemology will be forced to choose between two impossible positions.
        ~ ETOS 39-40

        Mystical idealists like Dan assume the criteria of the diaphanous model of consciousness is correct while rejecting that consciousness has identity. This renders their claim that consciousness can be its own object and thus a substance a performative inconsistency.

  15. Ydemoc wrote with sagacity

    Faith serves as the great enabler of the irrational, green-lighting the acceptance of ideational content, not only in the absence of evidence or proof, but **in spite of** evidence and proof contradicting such ideational content. 47 This is mysticism in a nutshell. If faith can foster acceptance of the kind of statement(s) you’ve posited, then what’s to stop anyone from accepting and acting on any crazy ol‘ thing, and doing so based upon faith?

    Indeed, I can understand how those non-German nordic types who enlisted in the Nazi army in WW2 would have motivated themselves to fight to the death for Hitler by faith rather than surrender and live. Faith is indeed a motivator of force that may destroy human civilization.

  16. Hi Dan,

    As I mentioned, I would only submit a “Part IV” if I needed to clarify or make corrections. In going over my comments, I noticed a f
    ew minor things in need of correction/clarification.

    In “Part I,” the sentence, “Heck, just look a the length of my current reply!” should read, “…just look at the length…”

    In “Part I,” the following: “ …as well for as any and all referents subsumed by them…” should read, “…as well as for any and all…”

    In “Part II,” I incorrectly spelled “fleas” as “flees.” The sentence should read: “Flies and fleas act.”

    I would also like to point out (as you probably noticed), there are several places where your comment runs together with my response. This is probably happening on my end, due to my not being scrupulous as I could be as far as formatting is concerned.

    I was going to let these errors go, but they were bothering me. If I catch any others that bother me as much, I will submit more corrections/clarifications.

    Thanks.

    Ydemoc

  17. Hi Dan,

    A couple more corrections:

    I wrote: “Back in April, you chimed in on over on Debunking Christianity…”

    That should read: “Back in April, over on Debunking Christianity, you chimed in…”

    I wrote: “In my follow-up, I made it clear why it is that the cognitive status of such deity-claims do not even rise to a level worthy of being considered as true or false (like Tiger Woods on Pluto, or arguably worse).”

    This should instead read: “I wrote: “In my follow-up, I made it clear why it is that the cognitive status of such deity-claims does not even rise…”

    Thanks.

    Ydemoc

  18. Ydemoc,

    I’ve had occasion to write some things down in response to your very long comments. I plan to post them in response to you some time soon. I’m just checking to see if you’re still there. Thanks.

    1. Hi Dan,

      Great to hear from you!

      You wrote: “I’ve had occasion to write some things down in response to your very long comments.”

      Cool! — my posts were really, really long, weren’t they? I suppose that’s one of the byproducts of doing a line-by-line response with an eye on being thorough. Another contributing factor is that I really enjoyed the process of crafting it, with all that it entailed. And thanks again for posting it.

      You wrote: “I plan to post them in response to you some time soon.”

      Great! I look forward to your response — although, as has been the pattern, I probably won’t be able to, immediately, give it the kind of reply it deserves; but I will post something to at least let you know that I’ve read it.

      You wrote: “I’m just checking to see if you’re still there.”

      Since posting my replies, I’ve made routine trips to your blog to check if you’d posted anything, and I don’t see the frequency of my doing that changing very much. So I’m sure I’ll catch your response to me whenever you happen to post it.

      And don’t forget: You can always stop in at Dawson’s blog and post something over there, whether it’s to notify everyone that you’ve posted a reply to me, or whatever.

      By the way, Dawson’s latest blog entry, TAG Defeated in One Fell Swoop, is quite an interesting read.

      http://bahnsenburner.blogspot.com/2013/06/tag-defeated-in-one-fell-swoop.html

      Ydemoc

  19. Ydemoc,

    Here is my reply. Feel free to take your time responding. It seems to be the norm lately. I plan on making these into a series of posts so if you want to wait and reply on small bits at a time I wouldn’t mind. This reply, however, isn’t meant to decisively refute such a robust philosophy like Objectivism. This is rather to raise questions and give some ideas to consider. The first part is a little introduction that should provide the background for the rest of my reply.

    Compared with the vastness of the universe, man is a mere speck in a remote region of the cosmos. Yet man can be considered a cosmos himself when we look closer at the smallest parts into which we ourselves are divided until division takes us into nothingness. Compared with that nothing, man is everything, the pinnacle of the universe, the most significant being. To be sure, it would take next to nothing for the universe to crush man. A small spoonful of water is all it would take. But, for all that, the universe is less significant than man because man knows he is being crushed. If the universe was slowly being destroyed, it would have no knowledge of it. The universe continues to expand into nothing and will keep enlarging inch by inch towards infinity. So, in nature, in between infinity and nothingness, we are a speck but we are something. We are not everything; but neither are we nothing.

    Man is stuck between two abysses of infinity and nothingness; and man can neither fully comprehend the extremes of nothingness nor infinity. The end and the beginning are removed from him so far that it is beyond hope of his discovery. Man is drawn from nothing and engulfed in the infinite. Stuck in the middle of things, man tries to gain knowledge of the whole. But, is not this presumption that he can know the whole just as infinite as its object? It is a vain delusion. He imagines himself as equally capable or better than the capacity of nature of which he has not yet sounded the depths. The depths keep getting deeper, and man’s delusional ambitions keeps getting stronger. The extent of nature exceeds our limited sight. Our senses dwell in the middle of things, and testify of our limitations. A noise too loud deafens us. Too much light blinds us. We cannot see too great a distance nor too short a distance. Too long or too short a lecture threatens our understanding. Too much knowledge at one sitting bewilders us. First principles are too basic for us to prove them. Too much concord, as does too much dissonance in music is disagreeable to us. We cannot feel extreme heat or cold. An age too young or too old hinders our mental ability, as does too much or too little education. We are incapable of certain knowledge and absolute ignorance.

    Who can deny his own limitations? Yet are we consumed with longing to know the whole and to stand on a sure foundation on which we can build a tower that reaches to the heavens. Can man be like God? Would not a man wish for ten years more added onto his life so that he may know more things? But what is ten years compared to the age of the universe? It is not worthy to be called a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.

    Can man, who is stuck in the middle knowing neither the end or the beginning, “validate knowledge” as you would say? I take a more humble position and say I don’t think we can “validate knowledge.” I do not think we can “establish truth.” That’s just not an ability that we have. I understand that you see faith as being aligned with imagination, hope, whim, and such. And, you say that reason alone is how we acquire and validate knowledge. And, I understand your hierarchy of perceptions to concepts to propositions to certain knowledge. But, is what we percieve to be the case actually the case? It’s not entirely self evident. And If we believe to be real what our five senses report to be the case, we still must believe that our cognitive faculties can form correct and accurate concepts from the input of our senses. In other words, we believe that the whirring and buzzing that is going on in our heads has a one to one ratio with the universe and corresponds with what is actually the case. And, where there is belief, there is faith. So, even at the most fundamental level, where you talk of perception, believing a perception is accurate is still necessary since humanity has not been able to prove its accuracy or validity. We can operate with what we’ve been given, but we have not been able to establish truth. In fact, inasmuch as humanity says that it can validate knowledge or establish truth they are doing so by whim and fancy. I say, we must believe by faith that things are true and that our knowledge is correct. Those who have faith have recognized our limitations. Faith is sane because it floats easily in an infinite sea. Those who only have reason seek to cross the infinite sea, and so make it finite. The result is mental exhaustion. To accept everything is an exercise, to understand everything a strain. The man of faith only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits.

    You say, “Any “error” or “uncertainty” at the perceptual stage would be an impossibility — and as absurd to speak of as it would be to speak of “error” or “uncertainty” with regard to automatic functions, like breathing, digestion, etc.” But, automatic functions do have error and uncertainty. I am a living testimony to it. My digestive system does not work properly. It is in error, and the outcome of whether or not I will have a proper bowel movement is uncertain. The senses can go terribly wrong too. The eyes grow dim over time so that they don’t function properly. A friend of mine has her taste buds all screwed up so that the things she once thought sweet have a metallic taste to them. Her sense of smell is off as well. Error at the perceptual stage is a possibility, therefore your statement is overbold. You might say that, if the senses are working properly, then perceptual error is an impossibility, but that too has problems. How do you define normal sense perception? Where is your measuring stick? Cannot all of humaity be inflicted with the same deformed eyesight and not know it? Because we all, whose senses work, might feel a rock to be hard, says nothing about what might actually be the case. The problem for humanity remains, “Is what I percieve to be the case, actually the case?” And you have done nothing to show that the two match each other except to say dogmatically that it is impossible that they don’t match. Like I said, It’s a very bold statement, and one, I think, that cannot be proven.

    Philosophers have always wondered if what they perceive is actually the case. In other words, It’s not at all self evident that “existence exists” as you put it. Our sense could be in error, they could be lying to us. Or all of what we perceive could be the product of our imagination. Or it could all be a dream. There is no proof that could be offered for the accuracy of reality that could not be offered in a dream. Or we could be a brain in a vat of chemicals hooked up to electrodes that feed input into our minds, and what we perceive doesn’t really exist but is rather a projection foisted upon us by someone else. There is nothing that cannot be cast upon with doubt. Therefore, to say that error in perception is impossible is actually a statement of faith. And saying that what we perceive is real and true instead of any one of the falsities it could be is just cherry picking. As you quoted from Anton Thorn, “Things are what they are regardless of anyone’s wishes…” Perception may not be, as you say, the pre-conceptual awareness of an object, but rather the awareness of a falsity we take to be the truth. So faith would be in play when it comes to the perception of objects or to the experiencing of something if you take it to be accurate.
    You say, “It is certainly true that one can *cast* doubt upon all sorts of things. But that doesn’t mean such uncertainty has any basis in reality; i.e., that such uncertainty has any truth value, i.e., actually obtains or is rational. I can doubt that I’m actually staring at a computer screen as I type this right now. Jodi Arias can doubt she’s a convicted murderer.” But, I don’t have to show that what we perceive is a falsity in order to question perceptual infallibility; I only have to show that falsity is a possibility. Even you say it is possible, as indicated by the first line of this paragraph, therefore, perception is not infallible. Saying it has no basis in reality though is begging the question, for that is the very thing in question. Are we perceiving truth or falsity?

    You say “Peikoff addresses my complaint head on, when he writes: “It is possible, the skeptic argument declares, for man to be in error; therefore, it is possible that every individual is in error on every question. This argument is a non sequitur; it is an equivocation on the term ‘possible.’” And you go on to say, “what is possible to a species under some circumstances, is not necessarily possible to every individual member of that species under every set of circumstances. Thus, it is possible for a human being to run the mile in less than four minutes; and it is possible for a human being to be pregnant. I cannot, however, go over to a crippled gentleman in his wheelchair and say: ‘Perhaps you’ll give birth to a son next week, after you’ve run the mile to the hospital in 3.9 minutes — after all, you’re human, and it is possible for human beings to do these things.”

    But this is wrong headed thinking. You are taking a specific conditional circumstance and showing how it does not apply to all humanity. But, Perception is not a specific conditional circumstance, it is the universal experience of mankind. As a universal, it can be universally in error. It would be a monumental achievement of you to show how a universal thing such as perception could not conceivably be a false experience. I don’t think you can prove that.

    A man coming into contact with proof of something or other in this world would indeed, as you imply, be forced to accept the absolute truth of the matter. Man would no longer have a real choice in judging this or that to be right. The matter would be decided for him, and those who rebel against such proof would be considered madmen, detached from reality. The amazing thing is that you say that you have proof and have risen above skeptics and the religious alike. You quote, “for the sake of both the mystic and the skeptic, it’s best that their doctrines operate in the shadows, away from proof, for that is how faith and doubt thrive. To do otherwise and expose them to the shining light of reason, would cause them both to implode and, thereby, give away the game.” But the mystic and the skeptic understand reason, which is purported lately to be the only way of knowing everything, can only take them so far and no further. Through the shining light of reason they have not found proof. So, how is it that you can claim proof when no one else can? It’s by claiming perception cannot possibly be in error. But, let’s examine this a bit more.

    You say that the basis of all man’s knowledge is the perceptual stage. From that basis we form concepts which allow us to state propositions which then may or may not be used to form a certain knowledge. So, you have a hierarchical series of percepts to concepts to propositions to knowledge. Each member in the series is supported by the previous member and this series is able to stand on its own because the base is infallible. In other words, we are not allowed to ask, “what supports the first member in the series, the perceptual stage?” We are asked to believe it stands on its own, that it is infallible. It’s a bit like saying, “No one may do anything (including asking for permission) without asking for permission.” But, what’s really going on here?

    Imagine a small number of circus performers underneath a big top. Their act consists of standing on each other’s shoulders. The second person stands on the first, the third stands on the second and so on until the last member stands on the top. What’s amazing about this act is that the first performer does not stand on anything else. The second member all the way to the topmost member do not worry about this because the top member has told them that the first member is fully capable of holding them all up without anything holding him up. Each member in the series is supported by another member and they are able somehow to stand on their own. The first member supports himself. It’s quite an amazing act.

    Such is the case with your hierarchy that brings you certain knowledge. But, your act gets a bit weirder. The last member of your series is certain of this proposition, “Any “error” or “uncertainty” at the perceptual stage [first member] would be an impossibility” and has caused all the members of the circus act to bend in such a way so the hands of the last member can grab the feet of the first member thereby validating the infallibility of the first member. They have formed a circle. Now the act is even more amazing because it is still suspended in mid air. It supports itself. But just like all other acts in the circus, it is not to be believed, only wondered at.
    The mystic and the skeptic both recognize the circular quality of such philosophies. The mystics find some philosophies that can be made straight and ground them upon a transcendent foundation: faith in God. The skeptics reject all philosophies that are circular and are forever trying to search for or invent philosophies that aren’t. But in this way, they are like restless nomads going from unsatisfying tent to unsatisfying tent. They begin to rest when they rest upon foundations which they cannot see. And it is in this way that all Christians feel that their real home lies in another country of which their senses cannot testify.

    You ask, “How do you go about determining that “what one observes” *doesn’t* “reach 100% certainty,” and what standard are you using?”

    I observe that nothing reaches 100% certainty without faith since I can prove nothing. I do not have a standard within myself that I use, I am not the standard, and I can reason no standard into existence. How do I live then? By faith, faith that I am formed in such a way that I am made to find truth, and that whatever input comes to my senses (what I perceive to be the case, or “that there is”) is rightly discerned by them because they were made to do just that, and that reality (whatever is the case) is intelligible and able to be discerned because it was made to be just that way. I have faith in our invisible foundation. But, unintelligent impersonal substances have no eye for accuracy or validity. They cannot intend it. Therefore, our invisible foundation must be intelligent and personal. If not, all our reasonings are reasoning in a circle, the wishes of people who cannot stand on their own who want to stand on their own.

    “Would you say that we can know with 100% certainty that man is fallible?”

    Man is fallible only if you think there is a way that man should have been and should be in this world. If you say there is a way we ought to be, then yes, we are fallible. I do think there is a way we are made to be and have not lived up to. If you think that there is no blueprint for man, no way that he ought to be, then the concept of fallibility is unintelligible because you have no measure to compare it against. You may measure fallibility by the majority but that has been problematic ever since Plato. And if one cannot intelligibly speak of fallibility, neither can anything be intelligibly singled out as infallible.

    “How does anything that Objectivism advocates imply “separation”?”

    Objectivism implies separation between subject and object inasmuch as consciousness (subject), when considered in and of itself wholly apart from the objects it perceives, is not counted as an object (existing). Your view of subject (consciousness) is that it is nothing until it possesses a collection of percepts, concepts, and propositions; and until it contains that collection, it does not exist, and is not considered a thing (existing) in itself. This view of consciousness is supported by the Objectivist idea that consciousness is a secondary object and only becomes an object upon possession of a collection. And after it contains that collection it somehow becomes more than a container. It becomes me, a thinking, feeling, reasoning, purposeful human being.

    You say, “But this only means that consciousness can be a ***secondary object,*** (it’s not consciousness conscious *only* of itself — which would be a contradiction in terms, i.e., asserting “awareness” with nothing to be “aware of” — as if awareness could exist in an objectless-void. Again, “awareness” of **what**!?).”

    This only makes sense if you deny that consciousness could ever be an object in a world where there are no external objects to perceive. It is as if when considering a container of water one comes to the conclusion that the container did not exist until the water was poured into it. What is it, Ydemoc, that holds the collection mentioned above? You indicate I am simply not allowed to ask this question because there was nothing to contain the collection before the collection entered the container. You would say, I did not exist until I perceived. And you press the issue when considering an objectless void by asking, “Awareness? Awareness of what?” But, this is so easy to answer. It is awareness of me, my self. The container pre-exists the collection it holds. The effect cannot exist before the cause. The container is the cause of the collection being contained.

    Yet, you have given me no good reason to suppose that I did not exist before I perceived, except to state with great conviction that consciousness (me) is not an independently existing entity; that consciousness conscious only of itself is a contradiction in terms. But, great conviction, as you have probably observed in other circles, does not make truth, or validate knowledge. Instead, the whole Objectivist idea of consciousness falls on its face when I reflect that the container must be there before anything is put into it. I exist before I perceive. To continue to ask what consciousness is conscious of without allowing consciousness to be an object in its own right is merely to beg the question against it being an object.

    Now, having addressed your comments, I will now turn to your Argument from Objective Reality.

    1) Existence exists. (We perceive existence directly, via our senses.)
    2) To exist is to be something specific. {from 1)}
    3) To be something specific is to have identity. {A is A; from 2)}

    4) The identity of an entity is not distinct from that entity; an entity and its identity are one and the same. {from 3)}
    5) Consciousness is consciousness of an object (i.e., of existence).
    5a) Therefore, consciousness presupposes existence. {from 5)}
    5b) Corollary: Existence does not depend on consciousness. {from 1)}
    6) The task of consciousness is not to create existence, but to identify it. {from 5)}

    7) Theism posits consciousness prior to and/or as causally responsible for the
    fact of existence (e.g., ‘God’). {theistic claims}
    8) Theism is in contradiction with fundamental facts of reality. {from 6)}

    C: Therefore, theism is invalid.

    Premises 1) though 3) are implicit in all perception, but made explicit in objective philosophy through axiomatic concepts. These truths are inescapable and presumed in all cognition.

    Premises 4) through 6) logically follow from the Objectivist axioms.

    Premises 7) and 8) are only necessary once the notion of a universe-creating, reality-ruling consciousness is posited by the mystic.

    I agree that what we perceive is not a lie and is real. I count it as existence. I agree that to exist in this universe is to be something specific, something describable, to have an identity. However, something’s specificity and description does not automatically oblige one to admit that it exists. The identity of a phoenix is something very specific, a bird who bursts into flames and rises again from the ashes, yet we would not say that it exists. Ascribing existence to something does not give it a quality, characteristic, or attribute. These things are a part of something’s description. An alien from another planet, even if it received a full understanding of the identity of a human, if it had never seen one, would not be obliged to say that it exists just by virtue of that understanding. Yet, I, having received a full understanding of the identity of the continent Australia and having never been there, am comfortable with saying that it exists.

    I can give the phoenix a very robust and detailed description, but nowhere in my description would it necessitate its existence. Thus, to say that Ydemoc exists is not to say anything about Ydemoc. Nowhere in my description of your identity, if I knew you, would there be an attribute, characteristic, or quality that would necessitate your existence. At the moment I know little, if anything at all, of your identity. Yet, I am comfortable with stating that you exist. But, if existence doesn’t tell us anything more about an entity than we already know from its description, your point number 4 doesn’t follow. The identity (a thing’s description) of an entity (a thing that exists) seems quite distinct from whether or not it, in fact, exists.

    If “Ydemoc exists” ascribes a property to Ydemoc, then the statement “Ydemoc does not exist” denies that he has that property. If Ydemoc does not exist, however, how can it be true of him that he lacks a property? To ascribe a property, characteristic, or quality (a thing’s description or identity) to a non-existent object is not to ascribe it to anything. Moreover, if “Ydemoc exists” describes a genuine property of Ydemoc, affirming Ydemoc’s existence would be necessarily true since you are redundantly affirming what is already in the descripton, namely Ydemoc’s existence. Similarly, denying that Ydemoc exists would be necessarily false; since denying Ydemoc, a property already asserted in Ydemocs’ description, would make the statement contradictory. Thus, if identity and existence were one and the same thing, then everything that has identity, even the phoenix, since we can coherently know its identity, would necessarily exist. This is certainly not something you hold to, yet it follows from your point number 4.

    The way forward here out of this predicament, I think, is to recognize that statements of existence are statements of number. If I say, “There are some A’s”, this is tantamount to saying, “The number of A’s is not 0.” And, instead of saying, “There are some A’s” I may say, “A’s exist.” All these statements can be regarded as statements of number. If “one” is ascribed to an object, and if numbers greater than one are ascribed to groups of objects, “0” or “nought” must be ascribable to non-existent objects. Thereby do we recognize that a thing or things exist (ascribing 1 or greater to them) from a thing or things that do not exist (ascribing nought to them). The number of Ydemocs is “1.” The number of phoenix’ is “0” or nought.

    That being said, a complete description of the universe, or a full understanding of its identity does not entail that it exists. The question of whether the universe exists or not is the difference between “1” and “0.” The universe is not nought, therefore it is one. Hence the word uni-verse. “1” isn’t the quality of the universe, it is the answer to the question, “How many?”

    (To simplify terms, I am allowing the word “essence” to include all meanings included in the following words: identity, specific, property, quality, characteristic, and description.)

    So what is the difference between a phoenix and Ydemoc? Why does Ydemoc exist and not the phoenix? The answer is that Ydemoc’s essence has been conjoined with an act of existence. It follows, then, that the essence of the universe has also been conjoined with an act of existence. But, the question will be asked, “What conjoined the universe?” And then, “What conjoined the thing that conjoined the universe?” Arguably, a thing that conjoins must be greater than the thing it conjoins. So, in our continual regress, we find the thing that conjoins to be greater and greater as we follow the chain of cause and effect backward. There are two ways out of this continual regress. (1) according to Ockham’s razor, we do not multiply causes beyond necessity. So, we stop with the thing that conjoined the universe. 1 is the terminus. (2) We follow the chain of cause and effect backward until we get to the thing than which anything else could not possibly be greater. But, if our terminus is at the greatest possible thing, that means that that thing was not conjoined. In other words, its essense is the same as its existence. Or, in your vernacular in your point number 4, its identity is not distinct from its existence. And, that means its existence is necessary.

    Also, it must be that this “necessary existent” is unique. If there were two necessary existents then each would have some aspect by which it differs from the other. One would have something the other does not have. In that case they would have parts. They woud be composite, made of more than one thing. But, anything that has parts must answer the question of origins. What put the parts together, or, what conjoined them? It would seem, then, that we have not yet reached the thing than which anything else could not possibly be greater. Therefore, the thing than which anything else could not possibly be greater has no parts. It is simple: not composed of parts. Thus, we have reached a thing that is immaterial, and thus without a body. It follows, then, that this simple thing is the source of everything other than itself. And that thing, people usually call God.

    Consciousness doesn’t even factor into this line of reasoning. And you already know from my previous remarks that I cannot agree with your point 5 on pain of logic. An effect cannot precede its cause. The container must pre-exist the collection it contains in order to contain that collection. That being said, I also dispute number 6. I do not say that consciousness can create existence itself. But, there are times when consciousness has primacy instead of existence. For instance, anytime anyone invents or creates something, whether it be a machine, a song, or a work of art. To be sure, existence was there beforehand, but to create requires the use of imagination to imagine of what could be given the tools at one’s disposal. We bring an identifiable object into being that was not there before. Consciousness, specifically creativity, takes a lead role in human creative acts. Without the creative act, i.e. consciousness taking primacy for a moment, Edison would never have invented the lightbulb and Eli Whitney would have never invented the cotton gin. And we would never be able to use the primacy of existence to identify the cotton gin or the lightbulb because they would not exist.

    It might interest you to know, however, that I do not think God is conscious. At least, God is not counscious in the way that we understand consciousness. So I also dispute your point number 7. As stated before, God is the source of everything other than himself. As such, he is causally prior to every created thing. There is no causality from creatures to God since creatures are wholly God’s effects. God is altogether outside the order of creatures. They are ordered to him but not he to them. All this means is that God is not able to be causally modified by an external agent. There are no external objects he must conform himself to. Rather, he is that which causes all external objects. They are dependent on his causal activity. He is not dependent on them in any way. Simply put, God is changeless. As such, God cannot learn anything. Rather, he is the source of all knowledge. People know things because they have learned. But, to learn is to change and God cannot learn since he is changeless. And since God has no body, no parts, and thus no senses, he does not perceive anything. Rather, he causes everything. So, what sense is it to say that God is conscious? There is nothing for him to be aware of. He, rather, is the source of all things of which we are aware.

    Question and answer session:

    “According to Christianity, Satan acts. Would you say this character has faith?”

    It’s possible.

    “According to Christianity, Judas acted. Did he have faith?”

    Yes. He had faith in the wrong thing though.

    “Christians tell us all the time that their god acts. Does it have faith? Can it doubt?”

    No. God is not dependent upon anything for his actions or his knowledge. Therefore, he has no faith.

    “Christians allege that the Holy Spirit is a “person” who actually acts in their lives. Does it have faith?”

    No.

    “Even though they weren’t Christian, would you say that the 9/11 terrorists who flew planes into the World Trade Center had faith when they took this action?”

    Yes.

    “Does one act on faith when committing an evil act? When thinking about committing an evil act?”

    Yes.

    “What is the difference between acting on faith to do good vs. acting on faith to do evil?”

    One difference is the goal to be attained. But, insofar as they think it can be attained and act on it, they have faith.

    “When you imagine heaven and being face-to-face with the Christian god, do you imagine that it will take faith to perceive him? Why or why not?”

    I don’t know that one. If I am still placed within the limitations of my senses and my cognitive functions, then I think the answer would be yes. But if I can “see” God without the use of senses, that is to say, directly, then maybe faith would not be involved.

    “If I get into my car, having faith that when I drive down the highway, I will not get into a crash — but then I do get into a crash — would you say that it was an act of faith which was responsible for my getting into a collision?”

    Yes. You either act or you sit back and do nothing like a coward, never living your life.

    ““Faith” and **what** are “two opposite methods of knowing the world”?”

    It’s faith and evidence. But, you’re misunderstanding me here. This is not what I say. I say they are not opposed to each other but work together to let us act in the world and believe in certain things.

    “If I act on doubt, does this mean that I am really acting on faith?”

    If you are in doubt about whether or not you will safely cross the street but do it anyway, you overcame your doubt with faith. So, yes, you are acting on faith. And let me just say, it seems to me that faith is not a concept. It is not a factual thing. It is not an object that I perceive and therefore not possibly made into a concept. Rather, I assent to the accuracy and validity of all objects through faith. Faith is not of the physical world. We cannot grasp its substance. Yet, things in this world seem to be made true by something not of this world, faith. In this way, God is not a concept whose substance is derived from the universe either. But, this is not anything new. Christians have always said that we can never wrap our minds fully around God. The substance of God is so utterly unlike anything in this world, and since our conceptions are entirely worldly, God’s substance is not fully knowable. His substance can be known by means similar to my argument I used above, but that is another discussion.

    “I would really be curious to know what you would say faith’s role would be in one’s acceptance or rejection of such a notion as square circles.”

    I see you’re still working with an incorrect notion of faith. When one comes to understand squares and circles, it’s not hard to see how each exclusive shape cannot be made into one another. This understanding constitutes evidence, at which point we can form a belief, by faith, of the impossibility of forming a square circle. There are those who might violate logic and say it is possible for A to equal B, and such, but this is a statement not made of faith and evidence, but only faith. I do not follow such ways.

    1. Hi Dan,

      I just wanted to pop in to let you know that I see you’ve responded to my recent comments. Great!

      Time is limited right now, so I only read your first paragraph. But from the length of it, it looks like you’ve really given the matter some careful attention. I’m looking forward to reading your thoughts.

      And thanks for cutting me a break, with your understanding of how long it might take me to respond.

      Ydemoc

  20. Ydemoc,

    I don’t know if you received my email from the other day or not, but I wanted to see if you were interested in compiling your comments into a series of shorter posts that could be published on this site. I feel this debate has been worked on diligently on both sides and I think it would be a waste for these ideas to sit in this comment section with only a few readers. Let me know what you think. I can make you a contributor on the site and we can go from there. You can supply a series of initial posts, I can supply a series of responses, and if there is anything more to say we can say it.

    Just a thought. If you’re not up for it, I understand. Thanks.

  21. Hi Dan,

    You wrote: “don’t know if you received my email from the other day or not, but I wanted to see if you were interested in compiling your comments into a series of shorter posts that could be published on this site.”

    No, actually, I did not get your email, as I very seldom check that particular inbox. But I will do so tomorrow. And, that is very nice of you to ask me to participate to such an extent on your blog; and I have no problem at all with dividing my comments into shorter bites, if that’s what you’d prefer that I do.

    As far as using whatever comments I make (short or long, but I’ll be mindful of keeping them shorter in the future if that is your preference). And you have my permission to divide them into whatever sections as you see fit.

    My only reservation about all this, is committing to something which, right now, I am having a hard time finding time for. So in that sense, I wouldn’t want to mislead anyone (i.e., you or your readers) into thinking that I would be pounding out stuff on a regular basis.

    But other than that, it’s cool with me.

    Thanks again for your consideration. And, like I said, tomorrow I’ll look at that particular inbox and read your email.

    Ydemoc

  22. Hi Dan,

    Thanks for the email, which I finally was able to read this morning. I guess I don’t have much to add to what I’ve already stated above (with, by the way, my glaring grammatical error, i.e., my incomplete sentence that begins with “As far as using whatever comments…’ )

    In any event, notwithstanding my reservations about commitment, no problem with all this. And I’ll keep your words in mind next time I’m ready to post something. Should I also let you know in advance that I’m going to do so? Just in case you need to handle the material differently than you do with posts in general? Or should I just go ahead and simply post it?

    Anyway, seeing as how I seldom check that particular email (lately, I’ve actually been checking into your blog and this thread more often than I have logging into that email account), if you ever need to get a message to me, you can always post a message here or over on Dawson’s blog (if you were to do so over at Dawson’s, it would probably be best to use whatever comment thread is the most recent. That way I have a better chance of seeing your message, as I regularly check out the latest comments over there.)

    Of course, you can still get message to me via email, too, or let me know with a comment (here or over on Dawson’s) that you’ve sent me an email. I’m just saying that I might get the message a lot quicker if you were to use one of those other methods of contacting me.

    Thanks.

    Ydemoc

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